Sometimes it's good to hear how someone creates. I like pieces about process: I did this, I did that, then I did this, and then this came of it. I would love to have Mark Rothko show his process, but he's dead and was too secretive while alive. Stephen King's On Writing is a good insight into his writing. Decades ago The New Yorker profiled Don DeLillo about his work. I love that stuff.
When I'm composing well, I begin with an idea, most often a good one. I'm not much surprised by that. Of course I have an idea. I almost always have ideas. It's usually a beginning or a question I want to answer. I open my laptop and log into Writer, grab my fountain pen and notebook, or lift one of my typewriters onto the desk and roll in paper. I start writing without planning much.
I might guess at how long the piece will be. It depends on how much time I have and how interesting the idea feels. This piece will be about 700 words, but others are going longer lately, and I bet I'll tend toward longer still. I may be growing. Who'd have thought?
I write until I feel an ending coming. I've answered the question, come back to the beginning, or am arriving at a good place to get off that particular train and call it a day. When I feel it coming, I start listening for the sound of an ending. It has to feel final.
After that I don't do what most writers suggest: stick it in a drawer for a week. When I do, the piece molders and dies. Instead of waiting, I go right back and begin cutting words. 1,200 words becomes 900 before I build it back up to 1,000. I do some of this on the screen, but it feels and works better on paper with a blue felt-tip. Feel matters.
When I'm disciplined, I read the cut draft aloud and hear what's left to be done. I catch typos. If mistakes remain, it's because I didn't read it out loud or fatigue got the better of me. There's always a point at which I tire of the piece and doubt it's worthy of publishing. That's when I give it a last scan and send it out.
Occasionally, something draws me back to reshape an old piece and fit it to how I feel now. This is especially true with my prose poetry which I only come to understand after a very long time.
Mostly though, pieces are done and I move on. I can't imagine being a musician who revisits "Hotel California," "American Pie," and "Stairway To Heaven" ad nauseum. Going back requires a whole new vision and sympathy for the writer I was. I prefer to move on.
I drafted this at the kitchen table and went to get my daughter from swim club. After dinner I cut 900 words to 700, then pasted it into the blog editor. There I read it again, amazed at all I'd left undone, correcting problems. I went to sleep and, a day later, read it again, made more changes, and am ready now to hit "Save & Publish."
Now I'm off to the next one. I want always to be on my way to the next one.