The Writing Life: How Do You Do it?
Cathleen Kaveny November 14, 2011 - 10:36am
I went to New York City last weekend to attend the most recent Commonweal Conversations, "THE WRITING LIFE: WHAT'S FAITH GOT TO DO WITH IT?" Paul Elie, Alice McDermott, and Valerie Sayers gave thought-provoking presentations, prompted by piercing questions by Rand Cooper.One thing that struck me: Both Alice McDermott and Valerie Sayers remarked that they wrote in order to figure things out--they did not know where their writing will take them. It was fascinating to hear how they, really, are the recipients as well as the agents of the creative process.The parallels between fiction writing and non-fiction writing struck me in a way that they hadn't done previously. I find the same thing is true of my writing process --and I'm a non-fiction writer. (Okay, Okay, laugh, laugh. I realize some of you think law and ethics are fiction too.) But I write in order to figure out what I think. I wish I had had more time to ask all the panelists about the mechanics of the writing process for them. It's always interesting to me to find out the "how." I tend to rely upon Word Perfect's wonderful outline program (may peace be upon it), moving around ideas and blocks of text, and gradually producing an argument whose structure I can see clearly, and work on the prose too. Keeping it in outline, I think, lets me not think it's finished too early--enabling me to see the structure, and to play with it.The hardest thing, I thing, is to rip up pages that really don't work. Keeping it in outline as long as possible lets me do that more easily. It doesn't convey the illusion of being finished--which even draft prose does these days, given the ubiquity of laser printers.I love Word Perfect's outline function--and it's the biggest single thing that has kept me from moving to a MAC from a PC.What do you all write, and how do you write?
About the Author
Cathleen Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor in the Theology Department and Law School at Boston College.