All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Writing and March Madness!

It's that most glorious time of year that a surprisingly large number of people say they don't care about - March Madness. College basketball turns into a free-for-all of 63 games over a few action-packed weekends, full of teams from colleges we rarely hear about during the other eleven months of the year. And every office holds its bracket pools (despite rules against them) and comes together rooting for some unknown team to beat another one so one employee can take everyone else's money (I've won twice). But there is something we writers can learn from this.

For those who have never done the March Madness thing, it's simple: Two teams play, one loses and is out while the other goes on to the next game to play someone who won their last game. It's simple competitive elimination - best team in that game wins. And over the course of 63 games, the process of elimination leaves the "best team." In short, a wild, diverse, bunch of teams from all across the country is narrowed down to the best.

Now, this is a process I go through not just every March, but every time I start to work on a writing project. I think we all have a big pile of ideas flying around our brain, every one potentially a story. I have a small ledger's-worth of ideas for poems, stories, sketches, and other fine written works. Plenty of ideas just waiting to happen, but which one do I write about? Sometimes, we have such a logjam of ideas that we end up failing to create anything. I hope you can see where this is going.

When I am in this situation (which is just as much a curse as Writer's Block), I just turn it into my own form of March Madness. I write down the ideas that even remotely feel like I could do something with, and then I just pair them off. Then, one by one, I ask a simple question with each pair. "Which one moves me more?" The winner goes on, the loser waits for the next time I am stuck. And so it goes, me checking through each pairing and matching up the winners then knocking them out until one remains. Then, that one by definition is the one I can write about.

Now, in a way, this is not winning in the spirit of March Madness. This is actually a process of forcing myself to make decisions. When I have so many ideas that I can't write about just one, usually the problem is that I can't focus enough to write on just one thing. By breaking things down and ruling out different ideas, I am making little decisions and building myself up for something more decisive. Ultimately, the result isn't the important part. The fact of the matter is that all the ideas are workable; the problem is just me not choosing one. And through this process of deciding, I end up able to focus, to choose, and to write.

Now, I do enjoy March Madness and my brackets, but it's not everyone's thing. As I prepare myself for major disappointment, I know that the underlying process has a lot more functionality than just a basketball thing. It's a writing tool too, and that's what really counts. (That, and actually winning the office pool)

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