The years rolled on; Writer B typed his notes; researched the historical setting of his novel; and sometimes—not often—filled in little written patches of the whole picture. As I listened to this saga of detours, or so it seemed to me, I saw that these preparations were necessary to Writer B. But I couldn’t help noticing how little he was writing.
I felt that the projected length and scope of the story required intensive writing and revising, and that this work alone would take years. I struggled to understand and respect his unique work process, but finally I said, “Hadn’t you better just start writing? Sure, it’ll feel chaotic, and you might have to put your beginning through multiple drafts. But eventually you’ll see which way to take your plot, and then you’ll get some momentum and be able to keep on going, beginning to end.” I decided not to point out that the first draft of the whole book would also require multiple revisions.
I half-expected him to reply with his usual description of his work process: “filling in [the picture] here and there.” Instead, he said, “Yeah, but if I go at it that way, it’ll feel like homework, and I want it to be fun.”
After weeks of pondering this answer and other traits of Writer B, I finally saw a possible connection between his self-imposed delays and those wondrous flashes of inspiration that were nearly the sum of his writing life.