A monthly column from The Writer’s Center

by Whitney Fishburn

Regardless of whether you’re writing fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, you have a process. Perhaps you make yourself a cup of coffee, settle in front of your computer, open a blank document, stare out the window a few moments, or indulge the sudden urge to look at your Facebook friend’s granddaughter’s 5th grade graduation photos. Whatever the routine, the more conscious you are of it, the more you can consciously direct it so it works for you.

When I find myself distracted from the writing task at hand, I know it means I haven’t finished taking all the steps I need to move forward. Usually, what I have failed to do is determine where I want to end up. When I quit all the clicking around and just take a breath (looking out the window at this point is still okay), as I exhale, I try to imagine what the last line of my piece will be.

What I am really doing is asking myself what I want my audience to remember after they’ve finished reading what I have written. It’s effective, because it means I have to work backwards from somewhere in order to get to the beginning. Typically, I do this by asking still more questions along the lines of “Well if I say that X is true, then what is the evidence for that?” And so it goes, in a sense retracing my steps, even though I haven’t taken them yet, until I am where my plot, argument, or proposition starts.

Then I can get to work.

What I hope you to take away from this inaugural edition of the monthly column Your Writeful Place, is reassurance that even when you’re sifting through some random kid’s elementary school commencement photos, you’re still in control. Remember that, and you will get to the place you want your writing to take you.

Wherever you are with your writing, you got there by following a process of your own design. You know how you operate. And even if you’re not quite sure where you want to end up, you know you want to take the journey. That awareness is a calling and you are right to follow it.

Deadlines, whether self-imposed or contractual, might help nudge you across the finish line, but you never would have taken on such projects if you didn’t first feel the urge – and the power – to shape worlds with words.

At The Writer’s Center, you also have a community of others to remind you it is right to trust that urge.

Beyond the camaraderie of other writers, TWC also offers an impressive range and quality of topics and instructors. That’s because no matter our previous levels of success, all of us who feel called to write can use a little help shoring up our respective processes from time to time.

We come to The Writer’s Center not to be told that our process is right or wrong, but to discover the elusive step that once we commit to taking, aids our entry into the world we seek to create.

Safe travels,
Whitney Fishburn


Chevy Chase resident Whitney Fishburn is the founder of docu-mental.com