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Non-linear Writing

“It’s fun seeing how your mind works. Everything is a puzzle to you.”

A small offhand remark by an art teacher on the back of one of my more throwaway drawings, it’s a quote that has stayed me with me nonetheless. Enough for me to put it on the front of my business card. It’s a quote from another perspective that actually helped me understand my own work process. With that in mind, I’ve found often find it difficult to write a piece in order, from start to finish. While it might logically follow to start at the beginning, perhaps with a few points in mind, I found that attempting to do that often left me with something that felt constrained and without energy.

Instead, I’ve been writing in pieces. I’d been unknowingly doing it for my fiction for a while, building on a idea by creating characters, moments, and phrases that I wanted to work in, then putting those together. This worked well because creative writing allows you a lot of room to play with structure and time. Recently, I’ve also been applying it to my critical work as well, reviews, perspectives, etc. By jotting down thoughts while playing or viewing something I can work out focal points for the piece. From there I can structure sentences that I feel represent my feelings on them.

Honestly, this method isn’t very efficient. It requires me to write my thoughts on paper in order to “feel out” the right words. I need to constantly reconsider whether phrases work with the format of the piece. It does, however, help me work out my thoughts and visually see how they fit together better. Writing paragraphs in small chunks across a page then organizing them in order and working out how to transition between them–it’s all very puzzle like.

That’s why I like it. There’s a satisfaction to writing something worth reading to begin with, but creating it from a non linear workflow adds another challenge to it. It’s not so much that I need that challenge in order to produce something worth reading, but rather seeing them in front of me and piecing it together gives me a more physical feeling of constructing the piece.

Additionally, it has the side effect of forcing me to proofread it and rethink it multiple times. It’s the same reason that I write most of my work in pen beforehand, it gives me an opportunity to read it back and see how it would flow from the reader’s perspective. Too often I become caught up in the process of pushing out words  that I forget to step back and get the distance I need to properly see it. This method covers it all.

It’s not an option for a lot of writers. It generates what is probably extra work and it is very much disorganized and without form for most of it’s life. It is however, a process that I’ve found that works for me.