On Building Your Writerly Process Wardrobe
By Christine Carron
For years, I tried and failed to meditate. Instead of being calmed by the process, it stressed me out. I felt a bit ashamed about this. Wasn’t meditation supposed to be a universal salve? When I finally ‘fessed up about my meditation chagrin to my therapist, she wasn’t surprised. I learned from her that it’s not uncommon for folks with trauma in their past to have difficulty meditating.
It was a bit of a “doh” moment for me. Of course, meditation is not a universal salve.
Again and again, my experience as a process improvement consultant taught me there is no process that works all the time for every person in every context. In my work, I must have (or create) a plethora of possible processes to try with an individual or team. Ones that fit with the context of what they are trying to achieve, their process temperament, their current challenges, and what types of processes they are naturally drawn to.
Which means, really, I am a process stylist. Creating a perfect match between person and process, elevating their work to a new level of . . . well, awesomeness.
It’s something that you can do for yourself. Become your own process stylist, building a writerly process wardrobe that works for you. One that helps you move forward on the adventure with style and panache.
Here are four tips to get you started:
#1: Define your objective.
Perhaps what feels good to you is more of a minimalist approach where you curate a capsule writerly process wardrobe with tried and true processes that you know will get you where you want to go. Maybe you want the basics but like to experiment, too, adding or rotating in statement processes to jazz things up. And maybe you simply adore processes and are already curating a Kardashian-sized writerly process wardrobe.
All of these possibilities, and everything in between, (or beyond,) qualify as valid writerly process wardrobe objectives. The best rule of thumb I can offer is to set a process wardrobe objective that tracts to your current process tolerance but includes a little stretch outside your comfort zone.
Your process objective may change over time but meet yourself where you are right now. So, if even the word process gives you the willies, then start small. But if you are a true process-nista, then absolutely go process big, process bold, process glam.
#2: Identify your process zones.
If you follow the two founders of The Home Edit—ace organizers Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin—then you know about zones. In The Home Edit context, a zone is a physical allotment of space that contains a category of like items. In a process wardrobe context, a zone is an area where you will apply a specific set of processes.
We writers will have at least two zones in our writerly process wardrobes. One for craft processes to help us churn out pages. One for mindset processes that help us get to the page in the first place. That second one is important, because the writing adventure will, on occasion, tank your confidence, or at least severely test it. To keep calm and carry on, or to get back to calm and carrying on, you have to find ways—ideally healthy ones—to reclaim your equilibrium.
Beyond those two base writerly process zones, it might make sense to specify extra ones, depending on both your writerly life and your general life contexts. An example of a possible extra writerly life context zone: writers just starting on the journey may want a zone of processes that helps them consistently build their craft knowledge. An example of a possible general life context: Writers who are also parents might add a scheduling and activity management process zone so that they can manage their time with greater efficiency.
With extra zones, you don’t want to get so specific and granular that you require a process zone to manage your process zones, but if there are legit contexts that require more process support, then extra zone away.
#3: Make sure it fits before you put it in your process wardrobe.
This one is pretty straightforward but can be hard to do. Sometimes we think a process should work for us. Case in point, me and meditating. Getting facts from my therapist helped me there. I am not writing meditating off forever, but my time for now is better spent on using mindset processes that will have the effect I want them to have.
Other times we just really want a process to work for us. Maybe because an author we admire uses that process. Maybe because some teacher convinced us that all “real” writers did something in a particular way. In those type of process in/out decisions, remind yourself that you are finding your process style. It has to work for you. If it doesn’t, remember what Coco Chanel said: Elegance is refusal.
#4: Make sure it fits to keep it in your process wardrobe.
A good process wardrobe is a well-used process wardrobe. With that in mind, it's useful to review them at least once a year. First, to validate if our writerly process zones are still valid, or if they need adjusting. For example, when the kids graduate and leave home, a writer/parent might be able to discard zones specific to balancing writing time and connection time with their kids.
Second, to validate if our process within those zones are still relevant and/or serving us, or if they need adjusting. We can outgrow writerly processes just like we outgrow a style. If a process no longer fits you, then ditch it. Go to the processes that are working for you, no matter if they are old standards or ones newly added to your wardrobe.
Keep it fresh. Keep it you.
Happy writerly process styling!
The Goodjelly Prompts of the Week
- Post-in-Action Prompt: Map out your writerly process zones and list the processes you use in each. Start with Craft and Mindset zones and add extra zones as needed. See if you can list at least five processes in each zone.
- Scene Prompt: Write a scene where your character gets a little obsessive about organizing something. Have fun with their obsession. Even if they, and all the characters around them, are not having fun.
- Journaling Prompt: Do you consider yourself a process person? How does you being or not being a process person impact your writerly adventure?
- Connection Prompt: Connect with your writerly peeps and discuss the idea of being your own writerly process stylist.