How I Write (Better Than You)


A great writer never reveals their process, for fear it will lose its magic power. Today, I share my writing process with you. My hope isn't that it inspires you, but that you realize I am a tortured genius who is also hip.

Remember that writing processes are like snowflakes: cold, temperamental, and a third thing.

My Writing Process.

I wake up at 5:55am, minutes before my alarm.

Before my cat.

Before the world.

I press record on the cassette tape by my bed and recount the dream or nightmare I had the night before.

I sprint to the kitchen.

I dry roast a batch of coffee beans from Columbia or something and grind them to a fine powder. Using the ChemEx I got for Christmas before it was cool, I pour 200-degree filtered Evian over the grounds in strict 30-second intervals with the precision of a pediatric pulmonary surgeon.

Once the coffee is brewed, I throw it out.

Caffeine is for chumps.

I pour aged scotch into the ChemEx to infuse it with a coffee flavor, and pour myself a hearty glass. I drink until it no longer strings and survey the kitchen.

I decide to put on clothes. I am tipsy and, like Adam, have become aware of my nudité.

I don a freshly dry-cleaned three-piece suit. I wear it to weddings, funerals, and when writing: life's three most important events.

Further, if I'm writing fiction, I must be well-dressed enough to attend my characters' weddings and funerals should they tie the knot or become undone.

I am dressed and the cat has awoken. I watch him walk and eat and walk and return to sleep. I feel a kinship with this living creature. Today, I commit to write for him since he cannot write for himself. I will speak his truth.

After a second Scotch and a satisfactory bowel movement, I sit down at an old timey typewriter I got two birthdays ago from Crate & Barrel.

I put on gloves. I wear gloves when I write to protect my hands from the ideas I create.

I grab a book near me and transcribe its first chapter, replacing primary nouns with a random list of people.

Today is "War and Peace." The list is U.S. First Ladies.

"Well, Martha Washington, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Buonapartes. But I warn you, if you don't tell me that this means war, if you still try to defend the infamies and horrors perpetrated by that Abigail Adams--I really believe he is Antichrist--I will have nothing more to do with you and you are no longer my friend, no longer my 'faithful slave,' as you call yourself! But how do you do? I see I have frightened you--sit down and tell me all the news."

Now my mind and fingers are awake.

I refill my scotch and throw away the paper.

I do not recycle it.

Recycling is for chumps.

I place a piece of thick cardstock into the typewriter and begin writing.

And writing.

And writing.

I do not stand.

I do not take breaks.

Standing would release tensions of the ideas in my mind.

Breaks would allow the musings to escape before being captured on paper.

Ideas beg to be spoken, to be revealed. They are in pain and battered like pancake batter.

After 12 hours of writing, I stop.

I remove the top hat I've been wearing since I went to bed the night before.

I take the pages I've written - often between 50-100 - and burn them in the stove.

They are shit.

They are garbage.

They are marinade.

I cook two salmon filets in the oven as the pages burn.

I am incredibly intoxicated, full of fish, tired, and have no writing to show for myself. I feed a portion of the salmon to the cat, who refuses it, unhappy with the meat for its mouth and mind.

I fall into my bed, and wrap myself in the Bed, Bath, and Beyond comforter my mom bought me my freshman year of college.

Before my eyes shut, I post a writing assignment on Craigslist and get someone to write for me for 5 bucks.

Writing is for chumps.