The other day I built my first snowman. It was cold and a little rainy and we didn’t have the stereotypical carrot nose or corncob pipe to adorn our new friend with, but it was something of a success. It had branches for arms and I even used my hat and glasses to make him look cool — if a snowman can get any ‘cooler’.
You may be wondering why I’m writing about a snowman, but the process of building a snowman has a lot to do with the process of writing. Writing is what I do — it’s what I’m going to school for—and it’s a topic I haven’t really talked about before in my articles. I’ve met with a lot of people who want to write, but they either don’t know where to get started or where to go after that. Granted, there are many, many ways to write, many, many things to write, but this is the way I like to write (and the way I build my snowmen):
First, you have to have something to write about. You can’t build a snowman if there isn’t any snow. Similarly, you can’t write something if there isn’t anything to write about (but there usually is). Ideas are everywhere, from day-to-day activities and funny conversations you might’ve overheard, to inspiration from songs and memories from your past. There is always something to write about.
I’m writing about writing — that should be enough proof.
Next, you have to make a body. Now, this is a literal body when building a snowman, an exhausting effort of rolling giant balls of snow and stacking them on one another. In writing, it’s more of a figurative body. What I tend to do is map out the important aspects of the piece before I begin — writing everything down and referring back to that map if I ever get stuck. Others like to dive right in, with a general idea in the back of their minds, but otherwise letting the moment dictate where the writing goes. This could be a novel-length story, an essay for school, a newspaper article, whatever.
The end product, however, should always be the same: a finished rough draft. Finishing the first draft is always the most difficult, but once that’s done, you’ve gotten most of the grunt work complete.
Now, after building the body of a snowman, you can’t just leave it without giving it a personality. You have to give it some eyes and a nose and a mouth and some arms and everything else you want to add to it to make it awesome. With writing, this is the editing portion. The first draft is (unfortunately) rarely ‘finished’. It’s complete, but it isn’t finished. There may be typos or there may be plot holes or it may be over word count or it might be under. And (again, unfortunately), it’s usually a combination of these. And (again, again, unfortunately) it’ll probably take multiple read-throughs to pick out all of these errors.
BUT, after this, you’re finished. Writing is a process — a long, tiring, brutal, exhausting, fun, rewarding process. It’s those people who stick with it that succeed. It just takes time and focus.
As for the snowman, it rained the day after and it turned to ice. I haven’t been back to the park to see if it’s still there, because frankly, it’s way cold here. But, when the weather’s frigid, the apartment is warm and perfect for writing. That’s what I’ll be doing, and now that I’ve shared some of my tips, I hope you will be too.