On how I work, illustrated

I spend a lot of my writing time doing this:


By which I mean I spend a lot of my time staring out the window, not that I spend a lot of my time drawing sketches, although these days I spend a fair amount of time doing that, too.

I call this, “Sometimes you have to get the thinking out of the way first.” I might have an idea for a plot twist but have to think about the various ways it will play out and how it will affect other aspects of the story. I’m running down these scenarios when it looks like I’m watching people with their dogs on Mass Street. Sometimes in my head it is all gruesome bloodshed and won’t Martin be surprised when he walks in on that while outside a girl in a yellow dress is drawing on the sidewalk with blue chalk.

Other times, admittedly, I am hoping a muse will come by and zap me with a totally awesome inspiration, but she never does that when I’d like her to, just when I’m in the middle of something else, like sex (“Oh my god if he would just finish I could write this down!!!”).

Mostly when I am staring out the window, I am getting the thinking out of the way so that the writing, when it comes, doesn’t have to wait for the thumbs’ up from my brain. That is why I think word count goals can be counter-productive. Sometimes I make a huge amount of progress in a day when practically speaking I have only written fifty words. What you need to write is time and space, and not all of writing (in fact very little) actually takes place on the page.


My collection of travel stories, Travels with Jessica, is now available! Kindle and paperback here; other ebook formats here. And I’ve published my essay “For Jessica” as a small book. Kindle and paperback here; other ebook formats here.

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