Writing is some strange magic and we are foolish to try to understand it—the how, the why, the when—but writers try all the same. Writers love to talk shop, to peek behind curtains and see what works, to take pride in their own methods. They all chase the same thing yet no two writers go about it the same way. Each process is different, each approach as unique as a batting stance. This is not to speak of style, or of voice, but of that simple act of writing, of corralling words. It fascinates writers (and readers), how it's done and how often and where, as if that magic may disappear without notice and we'll have no way of knowing how to recapture it. As if, when faced with the written word, it only begs the question: How did that happen?
Some writers write in the evening while others prefer morning. For many, caffeine is the stimulant of choice. Many write on a computer, others with a typewriter, some still by hand. Of course, endless external factors influence the process: jobs, kids, homes. Health, both physical and mental. It can be endless, these things that shape a writer's habit.
There's also, generally speaking, a lot of waiting around. A lot of staring out windows, of missing train stops and walking off sidewalks and talking to cats. These things take time to gestate. It is difficult to create, to play a god, to start with nothing and end with a story. Where did it come from? Who knows. Yet there it is, as real as a brick, when once it did not exist. These things take time.
It's a numbers game. They say in baseball, a hitter can fail seventy percent of the time and he's still a Hall of Famer. The odds seem worse for writers. Failure is a frustratingly large part of the game, at every level, from brainstorm to publication. One writer writes ten pages and maybe keeps two of them. Another writes hundreds of lines just to uncover that one phrase. We expend all this energy to get this far—only to drown our own darlings when we get there.
We fail so often that we cannot help but look behind curtains. To see how other writers do it, to see how we can do it better than we had been doing it before. The way a batter may change his stance when mired in a slump. Anything to capture—and recapture—the magic. So maybe writing in a coffee shop works, or now an artist's loft, or else an office downtown. For thirty minutes, for three hours. Maybe every day, or just once a week. The variables are many, and there are countless ways to fail. Yet there is one common denominator: writers write.
Amid all the failure, it is in the perseverance that writing rewards. There is success in going to the desk each day like going to the ballpark, in shaping nothing into something. How did that happen? By writing.
Writing happens by writing. And rewriting.
The details beyond that—fascinating as they may be—are nearly irrelevant. So many factors are out of a writer's control, while too many other factors are well within control. One can lose days just thinking about it, contemplating how an idea transforms into a book or essay, a story or poem, the wondrous mechanics of it all. We may never understand that magic, but as Yogi Berra might have said, the only way to get there is to get there. Writing happens by writing. So go write.