First and most important: Happy birthday to my absurdly wonderful wife Jessica Oppenheim! Take the day off, do only what you want to do and I'm hoping you'll include me in your celebrations! (Actually we've discussed this already and I'll be around all day. It's a nice wish, though, don't you think?) I love you as much as it is possible for one person to love another. But I'll keep trying for more.
I've been thinking a lot about writing lately and that's no help at all. Thinking about writing is just another way to postpone writing. And writers enjoy nothing more than not writing. It's our best thing.
There have always been problems (in my mind anyway) with my giving writing advice. I can explain character in the abstract and I can easily tell good dialogue from bad. But the dirty secret of what I do--and I make no claims for any other writer ever--is that I operate almost entirely on instinct.
That's not a boast. I don't want you to think I'm some kind of writing savant who can just wake up in the morning and create better than others because that is definitely not true (although truth is more flexible these days than it used to be). If anything, I mean it as a confession: I write entirely off the top of my head and sometimes it works. Other times, well, that's what rewrites and editors are for.
This is not the same thing as being a "pantser," despite the fact that I am certainly one of those. What I mean here is that I'm not giving deep thought to how a chapter will start. I get an impulse (usually in the form of a line of dialogue, for those keeping score at home) and I jump in. The pantser thing kicks in after that as scenes develop. There's not a lot of intellectualizing going on. I'm sure loyal readers of mine are shocked at the revelation, but there it is.
The point for those who write is not to feel bad about your process no matter what it is. If you need to ruminate before every word and that's what works for you, do that. I don't do that because it wouldn't result in good writing from me. I can't dictate what other writers should do. Many of them produce work that's at least different if not better than what I do.
But I just write. That's what I do. In fact, I just wrote this. Had no idea what this post was going to be about, and it turned out it was this. Go figure.