Thursday, August 20, 2009

From the Office of Christa A. Banister

So this is where I do my writing most home office in the "den" of our St. Paul apartment.

It's a cozy, homey little space that also doubles as a great place to display my purses as artwork (there are 16 of my favorites hangin' in various spots).

I also have my all-time favorite pair of jeans nailed to the wall—my motivation to stay on the good health/exercise path since I can't fit into them at the moment. Soon and very soon, (thanks to good eating and Jillian Michaels' "30 Day Shred"), I will be taking them down and actually wearing them...fingers crossed, anyway.

Now that I've given you the grand tour of the place I spend hours and hours in most days, lemme tell you a little bit about "my process."

I put "my process" in quotes because the thought of describing it that way just makes me laugh. It's like an actor talking about "getting into character." It sounds goofy and pretentious, yet all creative types need some sort of method to the madness. I mean it's romantic to think you're only going to be writing gobs and gobs of profound musings when you're feeling particularly inspired. You know, like they do in the movies.

But truth be told, as I'm sure any of my fellow Chicks will attest, writing is hard work. Thanks to deadlines and a creative person's sheer need to get his/her thoughts down, you'll end up writing when you'd rather be doing well, anything else. In fact, I believe the best writers spend a little time working on something every day, whether it's a blog entry, an e-mail, a Facebook status update or a few thoughts on the character that's in your head at the moment. If it's a really, really good day, maybe it'll be a couple of new chapters for that magnum opus you're working on.

Since I'm a full-time freelancer, I really don't get much of a choice in the matter. Simply put, if I don't write and meet my deadlines, I can kiss my clients, contacts and paychecks goodbye. So I write almost every day, and for the most part, I love every moment of it. From time to time, I think me and my MacBook should take a quick break from each other, and I make sure to do this for my own sanity. But most days, we're joined at the hip, whether I'm writing a movie review, a magazine article or working on a new scene for a novel.

Speaking of novels, I'm pretty free form. While I have strange little quirks like my desk must be free of dust and in perfect order (and my bed must also be made before writing—totally weird, I know), I can't just sit down and work from a tightly constructed outline. For a proposal's sake, I know where my story is headed—roughly, that is. But as I write a scene, my characters' behavior often dictates what happens plot-wise. Basically if a scenario I'm dreaming up feels true to that person, that's what stays. If you're confined to an outline, as good as that outline may be, something may not feel as authentic in a scene, depending on how your character has grown, etc. along the way. So I'm always open to possibilities when I'm writing fiction...

Above all, the most important thing is to stick with whatever is working with you (and adjust when necessary). Sometimes writing first thing in the morning works better for me. Other times, it's late into the night that's most inspiring. But whenever it is, and caffeine is always involved, it's important for me to chain myself to a desk (with some great music playing in the background) or a table at a coffee shop and just go for it. You'll always have time to edit later if you're not digging what you wrote a couple of days later. But the important thing is getting it all down. Procrastination is so incredibly easy, but making great progress on whatever you're writing always feels much better later on, trust me.


  1. I like your theory of writing at least a little somethin' every day. It does add up! I was just telling my husband yesterday, I have so many notebooks and diaries lying around that it looks like I have a bad case of diary-a.

  2. I agree completely with your assessment that a true writer writes every day. Last summer I read Julia Cameron's "The Right to Write" and was introduced to the idea of Morning Pages -- three pages longhand in a full-sized notebook first thing every morning. For the entire summer I wrote every day, and I can't begin to tell you how much better I felt! Writing is how I process my emotions. It's like a spiral-bound therepist. When I write about what I'm afraid of, I'm not afraid anymore. When I write about what I'm worried about, I'm not as worried anymore. It gives me a place to put all those things that otherwise I'd carry around and drive myself crazy with. Often, my pages end up more like prayers, but I think that's okay. After all, God was a Writer too. I'm sure he doesn't mind if my heart whispers through my pen.

    When the school season started, for various reasons, I just couldn't keep up with my Morning Pages. But when Summer came back around, I vowed to get right back to it, and so far I've kept my word. I've written on a plane, in the German countryside, at my kid's soccer practice, you name it. If I don't have time to write at home, I just take my notebook with me.

    This will be the first year that all my kids are in school (well, my youngest will only be going three days a week for two hours), and I plan on packing up my laptop and taking it to the nearest coffee shop to write my little heart out. I've wanted nothing else but to be a writer since I was twelve years old. If I'm ever going to do it, the time is now. No more excuses. Not a single one.

  3. P.S. Love your creative space! And what a totally cool idea with the jeans!

  4. Love the jeans! lol That's so awesome. You're an inspiration =)

  5. HI! I am really liking reading this blog and have a few questions for all you scribble chicks:
    What struggles have you faced in your writing career?
    Have you faced any insecurities?
    How have you overcome these things?

  6. Thanks so much, Betsy. Now to get into them...I'm sooo ready. And I think we should answer some of Anonymous' questions when we have a chance, don't ya think, girls? :)

  7. And Christiana...thank you for your comments. :) Looking forward to hearing how your writing goes...writing a little every day is the best!!

    P.S. Glad you like the jeans, too. Adds to the decor, don't ya think?