Trust the Creative Process…Even If It’s Messy

In my last post, “Building a Scene: One Writer’s Process,” I touched briefly on how I start each writing project with nothing more than a few scribbled notes on scraps of paper. I thought it might be fun to follow up with a few photographs that capture the messy process and the final product.

“Driven to Distraction”  

kathleenmrodgers working on Driven to Dristraction for Family Circle Magazine 1998
With notes fanned out in front of me on my living room floor, I attempt to puzzle together what will become an article about attention deficit disorder for Family Circle Magazine. I’d already signed the contract so the pressure was on. (Photo by Tom Rodgers, circa 1998.)
Notes for ADD story for Family Circle Magazine 1998 kathleenmrodgers
What a mess! I took a deep breath and plowed in.

 

 

After several revisions to the manuscript, Driven to Distraction appeared in the October 1998 edition of Family Circle Magazine, where it was read by millions of readers around the country.
After several revisions to the manuscript, Driven to Distraction appeared in the October 1998 edition of Family Circle Magazine, where it was read by millions of readers around the country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Johnnie Come Lately

messy notes that grew into new novel Johnnie Come Lately
This pile eventually grew into my latest novel, Johnnie Come Lately. The day I took this photo, I reminded myself that my first novel, The Final Salute, was cobbled together using sticky notes and index cards. For me, the only way to bring order to chaos is to wade through it.
About eight months before I finished writing Johnnie Come Lately, I dumped my work onto my kitchen table and went to work organizing the chapters. I'm old school in that I need to see the physical pages of the manuscript as I work.
About eight months before I finished writing Johnnie Come Lately, I dumped my work onto my kitchen table and attempted to organize the chapters. I’m old school in that I need to see the physical pages of the manuscript as I work.
Camel Press Poster announcing Johnnie Come Lately
Johnnie Come Lately releases from Camel Press Feb. 1, 2015 and has already garnered several endorsements. I will sign copies at B & N Southlake, TX, February 7, 2015 from 2-4 pm. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A visual artist interprets “trust the process”

Thomas Rodgers' design
About a year before I finished writing my second novel, my oldest son Thomas presented me with this illustration of a design he was working on at the time. He said, “Mom, this piece is to remind you that all art is a process.” His framed gift hangs over my workspace.
Design by Thomas C. Rodgers, designer at Pan Ector, Industries, Denton, TX.
Design by Thomas C. Rodgers for Pan Ector, Industries, Denton, TX.

Building a Scene: One Writer’s Process

One day soon, these scribbles on leftover notebook paper from my grown sons’ school days will grow into a polished scene in my third novel, Seven Wings to Glory

The Seven Wings to Glory bracelet was designed by my dear friend, Starlene DeBord, owner of Scarlett Sage Designs. Even when I'm not wearing the bracelet, I carry it with me everywhere I go during the process of writing this next novel. It serves as a talisman for me and keeps me motivated and focused on the work at hand.
The Seven Wings to Glory talisman bracelet was designed by my dear friend, Starlene DeBord, owner of Scarlett Sage Designs. It helps keep me motivated and focused on the work at hand.

Writing is a messy process, but after nearly forty years of writing for publication, I’ve learned to trust what works for me. Every article I sold to Family Circle Magazine, Air Force/Army/&Navy Times, and many other publications started out like this: first thoughts scribbled on whatever paper is at hand.

Sometimes I use legal pads or journals given to me by family members or friends. I joke that my first novel, The Final Salute, was cobbled together using sticky notes and index cards.

For Johnnie Come Lately, releasing from Camel Press February 1, 2015, my first thoughts were captured in a spiral notebook for a novel writing class I took at Southern Methodist University. Once I get a few words down, then I move to my trusty laptop. My job is to turn chaos into what I hope is an entertaining story.

If you’re a writer, what is your process? I’d love to hear. I’m always intrigued how other authors get their stories down. Whether you’re new to the business or you started out like me, tapping away on a manual typewriter, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Update: Dec. 1, 2016

seven_wings_300Seven Wings to Glory releases from Camel Press April 1, 2017

Johnnie Kitchen is finally living her dream, attending college and writing a column for the local paper. She adores her husband Dale and chocolate Labrador Brother Dog, and they reside in a comfortable home in the small town of Portion in North Texas. Their three children are thriving and nearly grown.

But Johnnie is rattled when her youngest boy Cade goes to fight in Afghanistan. The less frequent his emails, the more she frets for his safety. On the home front, Johnnie learns that Portion is not the forward-thinking town she believed. A boy Cade’s age, inflamed by a liberal bumper sticker and the sight of Johnnie’s black friend Whit, attacks them with the N-word and a beer bottle. After Johnnie writes about the incident in her column, a man named Roosevelt reaches out with shameful stories from Portion’s untold history. More tears and triumphs will follow, as Johnnie’s eyes are opened to man’s capacity for hate and the power of love and forgiveness.

The sequel to Johnnie Come Lately.