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Writing steps

Most people seem to have no idea the amount of toil that goes into writing a column such as this one. For some reason they seem to think that someone (like me) just sits down and spews out a bunch of silly little jokes and obvious puns and calls it a day.

Nothing could be further from the truth ” there is a painstaking amount of research, teamwork and just plain love that goes into each and every word that I write. With one exception: “Gliblefluster.” That’s the one word I always write without thinking too much about it.

Since you asked ” sort of ” let me take you through this magical creative process step by step.



STEP ONE ” Visualization: This is the most strenuous part of the creative process. In order to write a column, you gotta have an idea, right? And ideas don’t come easy. You have to work for them. Did I say “work?” I meant slave. Struggle. Fingers to the bone. Like that.

My first step toward generating ideas is through a process called “Visualization.” I learned this technique at a weekend retreat where everyone was forced to wear white, flowing clothing and forced to eat grubs. I’ve modified the techniques slightly so I can use them at home, where grubs are a little harder to come by.




First of all, I take some deep breaths, allowing me to go into “quiet mode.” Then I light some incense and a few candles, put some comfy pillows on the floor and sit cross-legged with my eyes closed.

Then in my mind’s eye I see it ” the exact location of the leftover guacamole.

STEP TWO ” Brainstorming: After my attempts at visualization guide me through some binge eating, I generally fall back on the idea-generating method I learned in my high school composition class, brainstorming. The idea is to write down as many column “concepts” as I can in two minutes, without any internal editing or judgment, no matter how totally lame they always end up being.

Here are the results of a recent brainstorming session:

SUV names.

My left index finger.

Why I love Q-Tips.

The steps of writing a column.

Why I still love Q-Tips.

YOUR left index finger.

An interview with the Anti-Christ.

Why do birds suddenly appear?

STEP THREE ” Depression: This step begins immediately after the brainstorming is over, when I look at what I’ve just written and realize what a loser I am.

STEP FOUR ” Unconsciousness: No matter what time of day it is, it is important to take a long, hardy nap as soon as depression sets in.

STEP FIVE ” Epiphany: In my groggy, post-nap haze I’m often convinced that I might just be able to squeeze 700 words from one of my lame ideas, like maybe the one about sport utility vehicle names. I’m saved!

STEP SIX ” For obvious reasons, I don’t have a Step Six.

STEP SEVEN ” The Rough Draft: This is where I actually begin to feel in control of my work again. In this case, I sit down at my computer, crack my knuckles theatrically and type, “Why is it that they call them Range Rovers, anyway? They don’t ever really rove the range. Shouldn’t they have called them Mall Rovers? Or something?”

STEP EIGHT ” Rewrite: Days later I sit down at my computer again. I open up the document and change “Mall Rovers” to “Driveway Rovers.”

Whew ” where DOES this stuff come from?

STEP NINE ” Completion: The rough draft, in this case consisting of 26 words, is quietly left on the desk of my editor with an attached note: “Here is my column. It’s a little short, but feel free to pad it out with some ideas of your own, or maybe print it really big.”

STEP TEN ” Celebration: I bask in the feeling of fulfillment. But it’s a temporary high, because in the back of my mind I know that STEP ONE is just around the corner.

Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Mondays. His e-mail address is barry@Irrelativity.com, and his very own Web page is at http://www.Irrelativity.com


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