The Importance of Reflection

You wouldn’t be able to shave without it, for a start.

Okay, as the ‘theme’ of this blog is writing in general and the things I’ve written myself, it’s fairly obvious that this post isn’t going to be about literal mirrors.

I’m currently a few months into a university course, doing English Studies with Creative Writing. Two of the exercises I’ve been doing are to keep a ‘writer’s diary’ detailing how I’ve come up with ideas, and a piece of ‘reflective writing’ looking back at my process of writing a short story, the obstacles I’ve come up against and overcome.

Over the past five years I’ve been keeping a variety of notebooks – literal and electronic – about the half-formed ideas I’ve had over the years. But I’ve never really given that much thought to my ways of working. But recently I’ve given more thought to what works best for me – learning by trial and error, and from what other, more successful writers have said about their methods.

For instance, Stephen King apparently writes his fiction in the mornings, reserving his afternoons for correspondence, and the more practical bits of writing associated with creating fiction. I think I work best the other way round – if I have the full day free, the prose flows more smoothly if I write fiction in the afternoon, dealing with more factual bits of writing, background research, plotting – and non-writing tasks – in the morning, to give my imagination more time to fully wake up. (Of course that assumes that I have a full day free to do what I want to do, which is rarely the case. For practical reasons, I generally have to squeeze writing in wherever I can.)

Stephen King, photographed at an angle that allows the viewer to see his nostril hairs.
Stephen King, photographed at an angle that allows the viewer to see his nostril hairs.

I think, generally speaking, I’m a ‘technical’ writer, for want of a better term – I find it useful to treat the act of writing as a mechanical process, examining all the pieces, making sure that they intersect at the best possible times. As a result I find storytelling theory useful – I’ve mentioned Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet here on the blog a few times, for example.

But, as important as it is to develop a greater understanding of how stories work, I think it’s also useful for aspiring writers to understand how we best function.

6 thoughts on “The Importance of Reflection”

  1. Great post! Finding what works best for us is crucial for improving our craft. Sometimes I also think I am more of a technical writer, as you put it. I like things to work, to make sense, to fit together. Often I find myself paying attention to very minute details because of it, and sometimes it slows me down. I’m still trying to find a writing routine that works best for me; however, the best advice I’ve been given is to write each day, no matter what. Even if it’s only a couple hundred words. Good luck finding the process that best suits you!


  2. I think every writer needs to find the way they write best. Not everyone is the same or works the same, in spite of what our society tries to make us believe. Thanks for sharing and happy new year! Came over from the IWSG!


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