Maybe I’m feeling extra curmudgeonly today, but one thing that drives me nuts about writing is when people talk about “process.” And maybe this is where I finally slip up and say something that alienates me from other writers, or ousts me from the secret club, I don’t know, but I don’t buy the whole “process” thing, not a bit. And honestly you hear it asked of writers more than you hear writers talk about it. Interviewers, students, people trying to make small talk with someone who has identified themself as a writer will ask “so, what’s your process?” Writing words down and then revising them until our eyes bleed stardust and vodka isn’t a process. To me, it’s a replacement for something we might not know how to quantify. People want to know, want to express how they do what they do. I can tell you exactly how I go about my day job. I can tell you all about straightening shelves, ringing up customers, but when it comes to writing the most interesting thing I can tell you is that there’s an idea, there are words, then those words get scrutinized for what sometimes feels like an eternity until I finally come to peace with them. And that isn’t a process.
When I painted houses there was a process, when I dug trenches in the arctic there was a process. When I write there is nothing systematic about it. There is no continuous action. There is no consistency to the way it is done from one day to the next.
Sure, when I hear “process” being discussed sometimes I start to doubt myself. Sometimes I start to think I’m doing it all wrong. Sometimes, maybe, it even makes me feel a little alone. But, really? Process? I believe in the work of writing, because I think it’s the hardest work I’ve done, writing and finishing a story. But process? I don’t think so.
Ryan W. Bradley has pumped gas, changed oil, painted houses, swept the floor of a mechanic's shop, worked on a construction crew in the Arctic Circle, fronted a punk band, and managed an independent children's bookstore. He now works in marketing. His latest book is Nothing but the Dead and Dying, a collection of stories set in Alaska. He lives in southern Oregon with his wife and two sons.