The inner workings of a writer’s mind

Now, I preface this; I have a small headache.  Well, not so small, medium-sized.  I’ve taken painkillers, am drinking tea.  I’m listening to what are right now my favourite songs, but I’m not quite ready to dive into today’s work.  I don’t do so well with words when my brain’s displeased.  I don’t get migraines, this is just a one-off early morning headache that in another fifteen or twenty minutes will pass.

But I’m itching to do SOMETHING writing-related.  I can’t help this drive, a need to create.  It’s not as manic as a few years ago, when I was pumping out manuscripts left and right.  Last night I shut a door on many of those novels; slips of editing notes were removed from my right desk drawer. I replaced my preferred striped paper clips with industrial-strength clips, then bent closed the manila folder clips, setting that small folder into a plastic crate that sits to the right of my desk, on the floor.  To make it even more definite, I scrawled in permanent black marker that these novels were no longer being considered for publication, even if some have a few rounds of edits under their belts.  There comes a time when manuscripts need to be put to pasture, through no fault of their own.  They just weren’t meant for public consumption.

That’s the sort of thing I think about, what goes on in this author’s head, when I don’t have a headache.

That occurred last night, after I pulled up a document, wondering if I was actually going to ever do anything with that particular story.  One of the initial prep actions is to delete extra spaces at the end of sentences and paragraphs, a tedious but essential task that can be easily accomplished at the end of the day when my brain’s not worth much.  As I did that, invariably words are read, and while that novel has had a couple of revisions, I haven’t touched it since 2010, and much has been written since then.  When my husband said he was going to bed, I nodded, feeling the same about that book.

That’s when I pulled out that manila folder and replaced paper clips.  Sometimes writing is about the office supplies.

Sometimes writing is dull and trivial, like how I feel about housework.  I do feel better when the floor is mopped, carpet vacuumed, shower mucked out.  But it’s a chore, and except for mopping the kitchen, I can’t listen to music while I do it.  I don’t listen to music when I write, but that’s fine; an internal soundtrack is running through my head, slipping from my fingers.  When I edit, sometimes jazz plays, and when I outline, music is as necessary as pen and paper.  Right now Gram Parsons is leading The Byrds through “Hickory Wind”, although when I read this over, there will only be silence.

And when I’m done, and this is published, well, by then my headache will be gone, and I’ll pull out the task at hand.  Maybe that’s what makes a writer a writer, the need for nearly constant expression, the telling of this or that, always something to say.  Long before I started writing for real, ideas piled in notebooks, scraps paper-clipped inside composition books, just in case.  Completed drafts sit in my hard drive, virtually paper-clipped for as long as towers and flash drives exist.

But why am I so driven to tell these tales, why does it matter if pages are clipped together?  Why are stories that won’t ever be written or published not just chucked into the bin?  That doesn’t have much to do with my mind; my rationale brain would say get rid of all that superfluous nonsense, which includes folders for novels that aren’t going farther than plastic storage boxes in closets.

That has to do with a writer’s heart, my soul.  More about that soon…

6 thoughts on “The inner workings of a writer’s mind

  1. Jill Weatherholt

    You, lady, are my idol! 🙂 I love this, it’s very motivating for me. “Sometimes writing is about office supplies.” That’s one of my favorite parts. I’m in heaven when I go to Staples or Office Depot. 🙂

  2. Ursa Bowers

    I really liked this post. I always enjoy getting insight into other writers’ habits surrounding the creation and handling of their work. There’s something so soothing about it. I really admire how prolific you are, and how objectively and calmly you can accept that a certain piece isn’t meant for publication. I still don’t have the necessary detachment to make these kinds of judgement calls about my work, I think. Hopefully in the next few years I’ll learn to be more mature about all of that… Thanks for the fantastic read.

    1. Anna Scott Graham Post author

      I am so pleased you enjoyed it. 🙂

      It takes time to release a piece of work; I carry a fondness for each one, but I realize not all were created equally. Some were to sort something, many were for practice, although at the time I didn’t assume that. I’m just thankful they take up so little space, as I couldn’t imagine actually chucking them out. Tucking them away is just fine though.


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