No. 109 | By Christine Carron
This is the third post in the Goodjelly Moves series. Each of the five Moves represents a core quality or energy needed to ace the writing adventure. The Moves framework conveys the reality that productivity is, like the seasons, cyclical—requiring both activity and rest—and each Move is associated with one of the seasons: Possibility/Spring; Power/Summer; Process/Late Summer; Grace/Autumn; Patience/Winter.
For the full overview of the framework see: Possibility | Get Your Writing Moving, Part 1.
The third Goodjelly Move is Process. As you might imagine, with my process improvement consulting background, I am totally down with the Process Move. I’m also quite aware that Process has a bad rap in some writerly minds. Why? Past negative experiences with overzealous and militant small-p processes (or process frameworks) that promise massive productivity gains, yet only do so by forcing the writer out of their natural creative rhythm and flow.
That is not smart process in my book. Smart process works with one’s organic rhythm, increases productivity, protects creativity, adds ease, expands safety (physical, emotional, psychological, etc.), and brings delight (i.e., extreme satisfaction).
It’s a tall order, I know, but it’s how I think about, create, and facilitate process improvement, no matter if I am working with writers or with business folk. Indeed, if you’ve ever wondered why Goodjelly is called Goodjelly, one reason is because I wanted a name that would create a link between uplift/delight and process. Think Process love . . . .
Process is Late Summer energy, when the oomph of Power settles into the steadying rhythm of Process. It’s not as explosively exciting as Power, but Process has an exquisite carrying-us-through quality. Think of a runner who wants to stop, but powers through, and then hits their stride—the zone.
The zone is Process energy. Habits are Process energy. Flow is Process energy. In all those cases, the efforting of Power is gone, but massive progress is still being made thanks to Process.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a process person, you utilize Process energy. You draw on it, for example, when you consistently meet daily word count or pages-per-day goals.
You use it when you plot—no matter if you plot in advance or plot as you go. A plot is simply the process by which the main character gets from the beginning of the story to the end. As the plot progresses, the character’s options are constricted, but the story speed increases—in the sense of the story barreling toward the climax.
Other examples: You channel Process energy when there are specific activities that help you generate ideas, like a walk or a shower. It’s also at work when you set up a system to track your queries. And in the ways you know will help you reset after disappointments and rejections.
I was interviewed for a podcast recently, and I recommended a process that the host could “play” with. She laughed and said process and play were two words she would have never connected before our conversation. The truth is that Process becomes play when you set up Process energy (and all your small-p processes) to support your natural creative rhythm.
When you do, (and it does,) magic happens.
The shadow side of Process is Constriction. We drop some of our options (Possibility) when we surge into Power. When we hit the Process part of the cycle, we lose even more options. That can be scary—i.e., facing the reality of an even bigger pile of what-might-have-beens.
(Of course, if we draw our attention away from that pile, we realize that progress is now easier thanks to the constriction: the path forward is clearly defined and all detours blocked.)
As noted with the shadow sides of Possibility and Power, there is no solution to Process’s shadow. Yet it is only through this final committing to our path (accepting the constriction) that we’ll reach the next part of the framework: harvest. (We’ll get to harvest next week with the Grace Move.)
When we have balanced Process energy as writers, we are able to access flow. We recognize and pay attention to the variables that create flow for us and cultivate those conditions.
We can be curious about other writers small-p processes, and experiment with them freely (injecting Possibility into the mix), but we only keep the practices that work for us.
Process can be out of balance in one of two ways: deficiency or excess.
Process deficiency makes the writing adventure harder as it keeps you from entering your natural flow state. That means progress has to be maintained through efforting—powering through. If a writer is determined, they will pull that off, but this is how writers end up exhausted or overwhelmed.
For example, balanced Process energy around feedback allows a writer to set healthy boundaries, plan how they will digest feedback, how they will handle any emotional reactions they have, etc. Without Process energy, i.e., a deficiency, the feedback experience can be fraught, possibly so much so that it slows or blocks a writer’s forward momentum.
If you have an excess of Process, you are likely imposing too much structure on yourself in an attempt to force flow. A Process glut might manifest as aggressive planning that does not take into account your current capacity or other life commitments, due-dating everything, not allowing yourself any buffer, expecting yourself to be writing at top speed all the time (i.e., maxing), etc. Excess Process can be another fast path to exhaustion, frustration, and burnout.
One of Goodjelly’s taglines is the writing adventure doesn’t have to be so hard. What often makes it particularly hard is not having balanced Process energy (and smart small-p processes) working in your favor. That is something you can change. So your mission this week, if you choose to accept it is . . .
Play around with the Goodjelly Move version of Process this week. Where is Process working in your favor? What helps you move into a flow state with your writing? What helps you move into a flow state with other aspects of your writing work—brainstorming, revision, querying, etc.?
Did you recognize yourself in the descriptions of Process deficiency or excess? If so, brainstorm ways you might move toward more balanced Process energy. No matter what, remember that this is Process play, so have fun, even if you have to create some new small-p processes to do so.
Next week, I’ll be back with Grace, the fourth Goodjelly Move. Until then, may your writing path be clear, the effort be easy, and the delight overflow. You’ve got this!