The end is nigh.

I’m not sure if this day warrants some kind of spiteful victory dance or a couple of nostalgic tears. Today, the challenge draws to a close.

To put it simply (and perhaps lamely), the challenge was most certainly a challenge. Surprisingly, I did not mind having so many deadlines. The difficult part did not lie in actually getting the writing done, but in coming up with things to write about. 

I never thought I’d say this, but I miss the days of having stories assigned to me. Those days of moaning about how I’d just like to write what I want are nothing but a memory these days. It must take a certain special talent to come up with so many ideas in such quick succession, and I’ve yet to develop or stumble upon it. But I think it’s projects like this one that help writers become more receptive to inspiration and more familiar with their creative processes.

This project fulfilled its basic intention: to keep me fresh. In past summers, I’d take long breaks from writing and fall out of practice, making me write more slowly and clumsily the following fall when school would start. But this year I feel I’ve avoided that slump; I’m prepared to go into my internship (tomorrow!), pen and brain ready. But that’s not all I’ve learned.

Constantly looking for topics got me into the habit of looking at news stories critically. Over the course of the challenge I began checking npr.org and stltoday.com daily, learning how they cover different stories, attribute different sources and how their news bloggers blend their opinion with facts.

And by hearing other bloggers’ voices, I’ve continued to hone my own. My older posts sound completely different than my newer ones. Because I’m not writing for a news service, I can ease off my structured news voice and editorialize. I can even make (or attempt to make) jokes! It’s been a refreshing change.

The blog’s viewing statistics will always vex me. It seems that the more random, personal posts like Awkwards and Awesomes and Seven Stereotypes I’m Guilty of get more views the day I publish them. But then the more news-related ones like St. Louisans and Their Loaded Question and You Are Who You Are on the Internet get more views over time. In short, readers, I don’t really understand you.

I plan on keeping the blog going (knock on wood) for variety’s sake. While too much of both extremes tires out my brain, I suspect a little blogging amidst more structured assignments and projects will do it good.

And as I continue to exercise my thoughts, I hope that at least some of you will continue reading. When I imposed  the challenge upon myself I also imposed it upon you without asking.  Thank you for sticking with me through it all.

Here’s to the future of Filling Up and Pouring Out!

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How it happens

As I’ve delved into writing in college, I’ve learned what I need to get my creative juices flowing. At this point, I can’t say I’m an expert. It’s an on-going process; I will always be learning how my creative forces in work. But this is what I have so far.

the written word

the written word (Photo credit: paloetic)

First of all, the process of creating a concept and writing it out does not happen in one isolated episode. When I get an assignment or some sort of inspiration I spend my non-writing hours mulling it over. I do my best creative thinking in the shower in the car. (If you ever find me dead in a ditch down by the river next to an overturned vehicle, you’ll know I was thinking about writing.) Many a thesis, lead or theme have been conjured up well before my fingers touch a pencil or keyboard.

I absolutely need a deadline for every single project. It is impossible for me to follow a “get it done whenever” mentality. If my editor does not give me a deadline I assign one to myself, because without one there is simply no hope of that project ever coming to fruition.

Unfortunately, I am one of those writers who puts other things off to ensure that I meet my deadline. Usually, the thing I push back is eating. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t starve myself between those certain crucial dates, but I will not let the opportunity to eat throw off my “flow.” More often than not, when I’m on a roll I forget to eat because my creative forces simply refuse to put up with silly things like appetites.

When sitting down to write, perhaps the most important thing I need is relative quiet. Some soft music gets me started, when I come to a point where I have to carefully consider details like word order I usually turn it off. Outside distractions easily derail me, sometimes if I’m on a role I close the door or put headphones in even if no music is playing.

However, I prefer to have easy access to others to discuss my ideas if I get stuck. My ideas may begin as seeds in my own brain, but they often bloom during discussions with other people, especially other writers. The discussions cover questions ranging from “Does this sound stupid?” to “But what is the meaning of life anyway?”

In the end, it gets written. I edit, overanalyze some of my creative choices and then edit some more. As the editing process continues, I become fixated on and tweak things that probably won’t end up making much of a difference. By the time I publish or turn it the project, there are plenty more changes I’d like to make, but I’ve consented to the thought that the project is probably better than I think it is and is where it’s supposed to be. I think that’s something all writers share.

Fellow friters, I’d like to hear from you. What does your writing process look like? Leave a comment below!

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