"If you say, okay I can spare 10 minutes and I’ll just start writing,
and it creates momentum and the next thing you know,
you got something pretty good to work on."
Well, going along with the writing, is there anything unique about your process that you would like to share?
I don’t think, I don’t know if there is anything unique, but what I tend to do is let things roll around in my head for a long, long time. I’ll know that I want to have something written by a certain date, so I know that’s out there. Maybe that’s my demon, my first demon, okay?
And I think the first thing I do always is: Who’s the audience? What’s my intention? What’s my message? And use plain language. Does this need to inspire in some way? How do I put words together to be inspirational? And, I don’t think if you start putting things on paper immediately you, the inspiration—I’m not sure you’d get it.
But when you work things around in your mind and your thinking about it, sometimes words come together in ways that wouldn’t on the page. And then at some point I’ll know it’s time to start putting things down.
Now this isn’t good advice for a student, you know. Oh, I’ll just roll around in your mind until something comes to you. I think, well back to your question. So that’s the way it works, and usually what happens is when I write it down, it’ll either be the penultimate or the final—one or the other. I tend to, when I do that, I go right to a word processor.
But, I think for other kinds of writing. Sometimes for writing I find the best thing you do is to take 10 minutes and say, “Okay, Bill. Just start writing. Okay. Just 10 minutes, that’s all you got to do. Just 10 minutes,” and then you have a place where you will keep that.
And sometimes that creates momentum, and sometimes the 10 minutes will be up and okay 10 minutes are up, but sometimes I’ll just keep going, that momentum will keep me going. Next thing I know, it’s been 20 or 30 minutes.
But I think in terms of students and their writing, I think if you just, you see this huge project. It looks mountainous to you. It’s like that garage you know you got to clean out, and you think it’s floor to ceiling with junk and furniture and all this kind of stuff.
And finally when you go to the garage, all there is in there is a couch, right? Because you imagined it to be worse than it is. So but if you say okay I can spare 10 minutes and I’ll just start writing, assuming in know what I’m supposed to writing about, and it creates momentum and the next thing you know, you got something pretty good to work on.
So how do you know, like you said, how do you know it’s the final draft? How do you get there?
Well. For me, I’m consciously doing this, working in my head. And then I’ll just say, “Okay, it’s time.” And just something will come because its time. I’ll just drop whatever I’m doing, and I’ll go and hammer out, and sometimes it’s the final, and sometimes it’s next to final, and that’s worked out pretty well over time.
What I’ve found is also since a lot of the writing I do is to prepare to like give a speech or something like that, that by doing that way, once I write it down the only reason to write it down really is if someone in university relations needs the text of it. I don’t like to read speeches. And so that’s why sometimes what I say and what I wrote will differ in some ways.
But I think in terms of students, you know you’ve got public speaking and communications, and you’ve got English and writing, and you’ve got rhetoric, and these things fit together in different ways. And so if the assignment is to give a talk about something, that’s quite different than handing a paper over to some people about something. But I think the thing is everybody works their own style.
Now, obviously I will never be a novelist or anything like that, because I don’t think you get there by letting it roll around in your mind. So many novelists I read about, they’re very disciplined, and they write. They sit down, and they write. It’s work, I mean, they love it, but you know, it’s work. It’s kind of like, you know, as professor, if mathematics is your area, you’ve got a set time you’re going to be doing mathematics. You’ve got to set a time you’re going to be preparing for class and so forth and so on.
I mean, it’s not that different in some ways from rolling it around on the page versus rolling it around in your head?
Yeah and I think technology makes it easier on the page than hand writing absolutely.
And, you know, I think one thing I’d say to students is block out once you know who your audience is and what the message is to be, sometimes you can block it out. And of course the writing instructors are going to say okay there’s some certain things that need to be in here and so forth and so on.
It’s like in public speaking: tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and tell them you told them. That’s kind of the general set up.
But in writing, maybe there’s some of that the same, right? But you know sometimes what you can do is say, okay you can write block one x, block 2 y, block 3 z and that just gives you comfort. Sometimes you say, “Okay now I know what it’s kind of going to look like,” and then you can go in and work each block and I think word processors are a great aid, but they don’t replace the creative process obviously, which is the most important part.