“The mind travels faster than the pen; consequently, writing becomes a question of learning to make occasional wing shots, bringing down the bird of thought as it flashes by. A writer is a gunner, sometimes waiting in the blind for something to come in…”
— E.B. White, The Elements of Style
I’m asked, from time to time, of where my characters come from. Are they modeled after people I know, are the places I write of places I’ve known and are the things that happen things that have happened to me? The answer to that is largely no. There is the notable exception buried in camo, but largely no. Everyone’s process is different, but for me it’s a matter of watching the movies in my head and trying to write down everything fast enough before it disappears, rather like doing a dream journal. When you try to write down your dreams you must do it as soon as you awaken and are sentient enough to hold a pencil, otherwise the dream disappears. If you wait until after your morning coffee, wait until you’ve gone to your writing space, wait until after having gotten the kids to school or shaved or even showered, the details and the importance of those details vanish into the clouded chaos from which it came. To a certain extent it is also like being a kid again. When I was in college I was a rock climbing enthusiast (I was young and stupid … now I am just no longer young) I was told that when we are young we are natural climbers, climbing trees and/or the occasional fence, knowing instinctively where to put our feet and hands and suddenly, we are atop the tree (or the house, whereupon our parental units lose their aplomb) and we can see more things than we thought possible. It was not so much a matter of learning to climb as it was remembering how to climb. Writing is similar, in that it’s not so much learning to (apart from the details like eliminating too many adverbs and gerunds, which makes our writing easier to read) as it is remembering and letting our natural ability to imagine and communicate flow. And remember you can’t climb a rock by letting someone else do it for you, you must put your feet on the limbs and push upward. So my advice is turn off the TV, turn off the radio, silence the talking heads and listen to your own voice and write it down.
Write it down. Now. Before the dream disappears.