To call my writing process flexible might be a bit generous. Erratic might be more accurate.I write in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening — whenever I don’t have something going on I’d rather be doing.
At home, I alternate between writing in bed, at my desk and on the couch until I get stir crazy, and then I usually head to one of a couple local cafes for a change of scenery. Sometimes I start out the day at the cafe and end up back home after a couple hours.
Cafes, I find, are a good escape, but they usually create more drama than they solve. What if I can’t find a seat? What if the Wi-Fi stops working? What if some annoying person sits near me? What if the temperature isn’t right? What if there aren’t any outlets available to charge my laptop? The struggle is real.
When writing is a joy, it’s easy and I barely register that I’m doing it. Other times, it’s impossible and I end up in a miserable Twitter black hole for three hours. Sometimes I’m really interested in what I’m writing about but I still have the miserable experience. Sometimes I really dislike the topic but have a really easy time writing about it. It’s a mystery.
For a big piece, I usually make a folder for it on my desktop, and then make a sub-folder within that with all my research — PDFs, links — another sub-folder with drafts, and another sub-folder with audio files and transcriptions. As I’m writing the piece, if I want to cut out a piece, but think I might want to use it later, I put it all in a separate document.
I virtually never use outlines. If I’m really struggling with a long story, I might jot down a basic structure in hopes of finding a way out of the woods. But if it’s gotten to that point, the outline will probably be useless anyway. Best remedy might be to take a walk around the block, or just try again tomorrow. Or throw something, which I have maybe done.
Jordan G. Teicher's work has appeared in Slate, Wired, The Washington Post, the Guardian, the New Republic, NPR, the Los Angeles Review of Books and Gothamist, among other publications.You can read more on his website and follow him on Twitter.