How Stuff Gets Written: Insight Into the Creative Process

How does stuff get written? Depends on who’s writing it. I know some writers obsess about their “process” but the biggest challenge for me is sitting my ass down and doing it.

The one thing that makes a writer different from anyone else, including people who “think” they’re writers? Writers write. Period.

This piece is actually part of a blog tour, thanks to Paula Rizzo, founder of, who invited me. And someone invited her, and I have invited three people. It’s kind of like chain mail for blogs. Except, instead of hand-copying 15 letters like you did in the 80s (whoever made that up should be shot), you get to hear from a range of bloggers on how they get their shit done.

What am I working on?

You’ve caught me at the tail end of a few projects: I just finished my first story for, and I have a piece due out on yourtango soon on matchmaker Hellen Chen’s “marry first, date later” approach. Oh–and this just went up, the latest installment of “Full Disclosure,” a column I write for DailyWorth, about how I got into a relationship with a financial planner, and why it’s totally worth it.

Of course, there’s this blog, and if you have one, you know—starting one is like adopting a puppy. Lots of fun, lots to recommend it, but it’s always hungry. So that’s a box that never gets fully checked.

So, here are the questions that are part of the blog tour:

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Anyone can write ‘about’ a thing. I make it a point to take a side, stake a claim, have an opinion—one that makes you question your own. And I try very hard not to say a thing that’s been said a zillion times. In my own writing, I’ve found it the most rewarding and valuable to swim upstream, to see a different slant, rather than pile on with the same old, same old.

My strength has always been a clear, unequivocal voice, and a fresh, sometimes counterintuitive take on a topic that makes you think twice about what you think you know. I write a lot about relationships, and as you well know there’s tons of it out there. But I find 80% of it is recycled or straight-up trash. I don’t see why I should bother to say anything if I don’t have anything new to bring to the table. So, that’s my goal. Always.

Why do I write what I do? 

To relieve an itch. Because that’s almost always what I’m doing when I write something. Whatever’s been building up under my skin, a rash of ideas and opinions, and when I write about it, it’s like a good hard scratch. The kind that feels amazing.

Now, as to why I write the kinds of things I do? Because I’m trying to peer under the hood of not just other people’s behavior, but my own as well. I write to understand. I had an excellent professor when I was in grad school at Emerson College who said, “We write to become smarter than ourselves.” If you write something you’re already bored with, the reader’s just as bored. A discovery must be made. And that’s always what I’m doing.

How does my writing process work?

How does anyone start with a blank page and end up with stuff on it?  There are endless ways to do it, though to work, yours must involve a solid chunk of focused time.

It’s like getting into a pool: It feels cold at first (“brr, screw this”) and so you hop out, then you step back in, wade around. But until you can get IN that pool, all the way, submerge yourself, you can’t start really swimming. And that’s where the magic happens.

And so I, like a lot of writers, spend most of my time trying to GET to that point. And it does involve: loads of laundry, catching up on other shit, general avoidance, and then…relief. Once I surrender myself to it. Of course, a deadline helps.

That’s the hardest part of writing for me: Getting in that pool. Because once I’m in, the momentum takes over—that’s where you find your inspiration: from doing it. If you wait for inspiration to get in the pool? Forget it. Not happening. Some people tell you to clean your house first, get the distractions out of the way, go for a run, create an outline. Ok, fine. But nothing beats just sitting down for at least an hour, uninterrupted, to do it. Because once you’re in it, it’s actually hard to get out again.

OK. So I’m passing the baton now to some bloggers I think you should check out:

Becky Karush, a colleague, friend, and one of the most thoughtful and sensitive writers around. I recommend a read for sure.

Sandra Keros is a breath of fresh air in the healthy food and lifestyle world. She healed herself from fibromyalgia through changes in food and attitude. I also know she’s been exploring her own writing lately and I’m sure she has a lot to say about it.

Diana Castaldini is a talented young writer and editor who I’m currently working with, who recently went through a very serious health ordeal that has left her world changed. Her blog is called Thinking Less After Brain Surgery and is worth checking out.