Feeling first

Over the last few projects, I've begun to recognise a pattern in my writing process.

I start with an encounter, a fragment, a line of dialogue or a moment. At this stage it's the very vaguest inkling of an idea.

The world comes next. My work tends to be set in very specific worlds—it's not a twenty-something sharehouse in any Australian city, for example. It's a place with its own particular characters, specific rituals and traditions, unique moral codes.

And then there's usually a mess and tangle of themes and ideas—things I want to explore, things I want to say. They're usually things I've been mulling over for up to a year or two. And when I first have an idea, I hold these themes up against it. Does this one fit here? Does this seemingly separate idea shed light on the thing that's been obsessing me?

This is where I try to start writing. It always feels like it's too early, like I'm not ready. But if I don't start writing, I never will be. And it's hard, because the ideas aren't fully formed, and I loathe this part of the process.

And so I make a playlist of music. This playlist becomes my anchor, my raft, my lifeline to the emotional core of the work. It makes me feel the way the work does. When I don't want to write, I listen to it. When I'm on the bus or shopping for groceries, I listen to it. When I want to write but the ideas aren't connecting, I listen to it.

This music makes me feel. And once I feel the work, I can begin to write it.

This morning I'm making a new playlist.