I don’t know if there’s a “right” approach to writing. Some people brainstorm and research about a topic before they start scribbling, then they go through at least three drafts before they publish the real thing. Others, like me, just wing it. We sit in front our laptops or notebooks and stare into space, chewing our thumbs while waiting for inspiration to strike. It’s not the most efficient approach because inspiration is a fickle little shit. It’s like an electric shock that comes at random intervals, leaving you in alternating waves of elation and despair. It works a bit like resurfacing memories – vignettes from a past era that randomly materialize in flashes. There is no way to control inspiration; you just have to run with it when it strikes and wait for it when it’s gone.
This is the way I’ve been writing for years – spontaneous but directionless. Under most circumstances, it’s worked pretty well for me. Except, of course, during in-class essays when the clock doesn’t accommodate inspiration’s fickle ways. (To be honest, I just don’t believe timed essays are in any way an accurate assessment of anyone’s writing skills.) I’ve never exactly bombed any of those stupid ass essays, but I haven’t gotten that many As either. And every single time I stare at my blank test booklet, freaking the fuck out and praying for an idea to hit me while everyone else relentlessly scribbles away, I always kick myself for not adopting another approach to writing. A more mechanical one that included brainstorming and fast thinking.
But then again, our writing process, unlike our writing style, is not something that we get to choose. The way we approach writing is linked to the way we think. Some people can just think on their feet and crank out an 800-word paper in twenty minutes. I’m not one of them, and I never will be no matter how fucking hard I try. And I think that’s okay; there are different career paths for both fast and slow writers, which is another reason that I think I’m a doomed journalist.