A Glimpse Into the Creative Writing Process

    At about 11 PM last night, I was locking my doors and turning out the lights to go to bed. It had been a long day, mostly work. My mind was everywhere, as usual, flitting from one topic to another, as my body, operating mostly on habit, went through its evening routine.

    Suddenly, and for no particular reason that I can identify, a thought started forming in my head. It wasn’t a normal one. I knew that right away. I had an almost tactile sensation of the thought trying to birth itself by collecting language around it to form a sentence. It felt as if I heard the sentence – in the way you hear yourself think – before I had a sense of its meaning. 

    All of this lasted three seconds, at most. The thought was born fully-formed, which is rare for me. Most thoughts start raw and need refinement. Not this one. There was something different about it from the start. But what? I could almost feel it trying to get out of my body.

    I pulled out my phone and tweeted it. By then my body was vibrating.


    And then I went to bed.

    I woke up to find that my tweet might be among the most viral things I have ever written (although it is still early). And I don’t know where the thought came from. It simply appeared in my head. Or at least that is my experience of it.

    When people ask me where I get my ideas, I have lots of writerly answers for that. I usually talk about inhaling stimulation from the environment and exhaling some of it back with a creative flare. Sometimes I say I copy other art, but do it so poorly that it looks original. Sometimes I say people send me ideas by email, but those are only broad topic suggestions. Sometimes I say I was born with the right wiring for creativity. Sometimes I say creativity is like a muscle that you can exercise, and I exercise it every day for my job, so that must help, I would think.

    But all of that blah, blah really speaks to the craft part of creativity. Creativity is the part you do intentionally. Art is the part you discover. Or in this case, it discovered me.

    The experience I described from last night is uncommon for me, but only because of the high wattage. When I write, I am running a program in my mind that checks the logic and grammar of my writing, of course. But I am also monitoring all of my thoughts for their visceral impact. In other words, I tune my physical body to feel words and ideas. My body is the instrument that identifies the x-factor, not my mind. If you don’t feel an idea in your body, no one else will either.

    If you want to inform, write with your mind. If you want to move people, write with your body.

    Update: The tweet indeed got a far larger reaction (retweets and shares) than anything I have done. For context, you should know that text performs worse than images on social media (far worse). So for a single sentence of text to get this must action, without being tied to the headlines, you are seeing something rare. That’s what I felt when it appeared in my head. It was like seeing the future.


    Follow me on Twitter at: @ScottAdamsSays

    Note: Yes, I know all the “feeling” happens in my head. But you know what I meant. And that is your bonus writing tip for the day: Sometimes writing it wrong is writing it better.

    If you want to see a book that has plenty of body-writing, see my book on systems versus goals. A book of this sort is only useful if it moves people to action, so I went heavy on the body-writing.