The Process

Chaos in Print

I’ve got three hours to go before my latest column has to be uploaded, but I’ve got no ideas whatsoever. It’s been a dry week for me, with, quite literally, “nothing to write home about.” I need an idea. I have to induce creativity. I haven’t felt pressure like this since my old university days, when a 15-page paper would be due the next day and all I had done were a few index cards of research. In order to get something going, all I have to do is remember the process. That’s one of the lasting lessons I got from my junior high English teacher, Mr. Twerdoclib. Nothing creative just happens. There is a process to it. The one that ol’ Twerdy (as we called him behind his back) kept harping on was the writing process. You can’t just write, according to Twerdy. You had to go through this step-by-step process: pre-writing, writing, revising & rewriting, edition & proofreading, ending with sharing & publication. As we neared the end of our junior high years, Twerdy told my class that this process could be modified and streamlined to suit our individual needs. And now, that I’ve found a version of the writing process that works for me, I find that I have to go through it just to get something out to my 12 loyal readers.

The first step is putting off any actual real work until your favorite TV shows ends. This step is a lot easier if you are watching one of your favorite videos or DVDs. You can just keep repeating to yourself, “I’ll start as soon as this movie ends.” It’s a lot easier when you have a DVD. Then you can say, “I’ll start as soon as this movie ends, and I’ve watched all the featurettes and trailers, and have gone back and watched it again with the director’s running commentary.” Yes, it is possible to stop the movie and watch it after your work is finished, but this just interrupts the process.

The second step is playing Mr. Do. No work can begin until you’ve played a round of Mr. Do. Remember Mr. Do? This was the classic mid-1980’s arcade game in which you were some kind of rabbit/wizard/KKK member who ran around with a gun, digging these tunnels, eating cherries and shooting all the bad guys. I used to play it all the time on my cousin’s ColecoVision. Well, thanks to modern technology, I’ve got the Atari 2600 version for my Atari emulator. I just can’t write until I’ve played Mr. Do. Of course, if Mr. Do proves to be too challenging a game, you can substitute Yar’s Revenge.

Next comes pre-writing. This is where you sit down with a blank sheet of paper, and just brainstorm ideas. Mr. Twerdoclib was a big fan of the “though web.” This is where you’d write something in the middle of the page, and put a circle around it. You think of all the things that thing makes you think of, and then they all get their own bubbles, connected to your central bubble via a line. Then, you do that with your next level of bubbles, and so on and such forth. At the end of this, there’ll be one chain of bubbles that’s the longest and most developed. This becomes your plot-line. As I’ve said, that’s what Mr. Twerdoclib was a fan of. Myself? I fine the best way is to just lie on your bed, staring at the ceiling until you think of something.

The next, and most important part of the process, is urination. Hey, you’ve been holding it in since halfway through that movie. Best you get it out now.

Now, we come to the fun part: writing. With a developed idea and an empty bladder, you can now sit down and crank out that first draft. In the good ol’ days, I would always do this by hand. I would sit down with my pen and a binder full of looseleaf and write it by hand. I abandoned that idea in my first years of university, when writing out a 20-page paper by hand didn’t have much appeal. Plus, I did the numbers. I discovered, a long time ago, that when I type something, I tend to halve the length of something handwritten. That is, if I write something 2 pages long, it’ll be one page after I’ve typed it up. So, if the final product had to be 20 pages typed, that meant I would have to write a minimum of 40 pages. Yup, university meant kissing good-bye to the pen and paper, and getting into the 21st Century.

The next all-important step is that of the snack. Writing a first draft is tough, and now you deserve a break. I find that, when writing my columns, nothing makes a finer snack than some of Mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies and a store-brand cola. If you are still a university student, then you’ll find that is the prime time for a sev-run. “Sev-run” is Augustana slang for “trip to 7-11 for the purpose of snack foods.” When in university, the proper way to do this step is to round up about three or four friends to bring along.

Now that you’re back from 7-11 and you have a full belly, it’s time to move on to revising and rewriting! This is where the whole concept of multiple drafts comes in. You look back at your “product” and you start searching for what you could cut, what would be better if introduced earlier, and where you should perhaps add a little more. Then, you take all that and write your next draft. I gave up this step a long time ago because I soon learned that I am a genius and I pretty much nail it in the first draft all the time. Hey! It’s not my fault I’m a genius. I just became aware of my talents and decided to use them to streamline the process.

Thanks to modern technology, this next step has become the easiest: editing and proofreading. This is where you cut stuff that’s unnecessary, and look for spelling and grammatical errors. Firstly, I never have to cut anything because, as I’ve said, I pretty much nail it on the first draft. And as for errors, thank you computer! All you have to do is punch that little button that says “check spelling,” and it’s done! But, you do have to watch it. Since we are Canadians and most spell checkers are written in the U.S.A., you’ll find that something like “colour” is detected as a spelling error, only to be replaced with “color.” I’ve been told that you can get a patch to correct this, but I’m a genius, and can’t be bothered with such menial things as spelling. And besides, I took spelling in school. I don’t need technology to tell me when “hi” is spelled wrong.

Then, the final step! The one that we’ve all been waiting for! Sharing & publishing! In the good ol’ days, when I would write everything by hand first, this would be when I finally sit down in front of a computer and type it up. But, since I do everything on the computer now, this is just when I hit “print.” Again, in the good ol’ days, this would finally end when I turned it into the teacher the next morning. Now, it ends when I run off an HTML version and uploaded it to ye old website. The end of the process. Or, Mr. Twerdoclib would have us think that….

Every few months, around mid-term time, ol’ Twerdy would have us do something he called a “superior good copy.” We’d get to sift through everything we had written throughout the last few months, and select something to do another draft of. It’s essentially the same thing y George Lucas did with the Star Wars: Special Editions. Twerdy’s attitude was that we had given him 110% throughout the last few months, now he wanted 150%, plus blood. I guess there will always be those in life who see no end to the process. There will always be those who can’t conceive of anything outside the process, and will forever be confined in it. But, for me, the process must begin now, so if you’ll excuse me, I’ve been dying to watch that Blade DVD I just got.