-Sometimes, we must journey through an eternity of darkness and pain in order to find our true selves.”-J Cooper

Seriously, writing is hard, and I am occasionally crazy and sometimes I can be a bit spacey. I can normally be found staring into space, talking to myself, or acting out elaborate scenes almost as if I’m choreographing an epic play. Because sometimes I kind of am. When it comes to my writing, I tend to skip making your basic outline, and web, instead I simply begin writing little mini chapters, or (type being the more opportune word or if you simply want to be a jerk about it and call be a typist) I sometimes skip around and write summaries or even chapters I’ve already played out and planned in my head. So I guess you can say I’m a very unconventional writer.

Although before I even begin writing I often create character bios, background, making an entire history to shape and mold the characters I write about. Each character has his or her mini story, so before I even begin to write, I already have my characters in place, their motivations and reasons why they are the way they are. I often imagine what it would be like to be each one of my characters, or simply be the casual observer, passing my characters by along the street.

Then I usually tell myself my writing sucks and no one would ever read my crap. (It’s always good to keep a realistic grasp of the situation.) But I always dive into the story regardless, knowing that the characters have taken on a life of their own and want their stories to be heard, stories that need to be explored.

Once I’ve written or typed (if you still want to be a jerk and call me a typist) the equivalent of 30-40 pages, I usually read, or skim over it for mistakes, revisions before I feel comfortable enough to let someone else read it, at which point I become a twelve year boy, who just passed a note to a pretty girl in class, because I get all giddy with anticipation to hear their feedback, thoughts and to talk to them about my story. Because I love feedback both the positive and the negative, because I can always correct the negative and the good always assures me I’m on the right track.

But I write almost every day, including when I’m on vacation. Sometimes for ten minutes, sometimes for 2 hours, sometimes for 12 hours; most often something rational and in-between. I don’t have a daily quota. I just write however much I write, and my plan is always changeable. I don’t force myself to write if it’s not working. I try not to check email or do other distracting things, but I don’t succeed very often, and that’s okay, because small rests and distractions are part of the process and help get those brain juices flowing.

My ideas tend to start with characters in my head who are having a conversation– usually arguments, or find themselves being tested, be it their faith, relationships, their dreams, or just their lives. Although most of my stories come from my dreams, where I often become more of a passenger in someone else’s body, witnessing their triumphs, their failures, their victories and their defeats, and  I’m always there with them along their journey. But then I listen to my characters, they’re so angry sometimes, or sad, so introspective and they all talk to me, like ghosts from another life who wants their stories to be heard and I can’t disappoint them. They want the world to know who they are and why, to know what their fighting for, and what it is they want. There’s everything from hate and vengeance, to redemption and salvation, all the way to stories of all-encompassing and all powerful love. More importantly however these characters want to live!

And so it all starts to come together.

Characters, relationships, and feelings come first. Then the setting, plot, and so on, till the story begins forming, coming together and much like Frankenstein’s monster, begins taking on a life of its own, writing itself at that point. Which is also usually when my fingers struggle to keep up with everything flowing and racing to get out of my brain and there are parts of the plot I don’t know until I get to them in the book itself, and (breath) it’s then they happen and even I get surprised and feel the suspense building, and the relief…or sometimes the disappointment in the resolution. Because not every story can end well, or even on a high note. Some and the very best stories are often wrought with tragedy and pain, but more importantly growth.

My characters are similarly elusive. A conversation I’m writing may veer off course or get out of hand; I can intend a character to say something, but it doesn’t mean he or she will. Instead my characters often surprise me. And then I realize I was wrong about who it was they were, or I realized my character had been growing this whole time and I adjust my perceptions and stand aside as my characters grow, mature, or sometimes regress and withdraw.

What else can I tell you about my writing process?

I sit in an armchair.

I spend a lot of time staring into space.

I talk to myself….a lot

I make playlist for whatever story I’m writing and call it my soundtrack.

I count the glow-in-the-dark stars on my ceiling.

I act out scenes to see and feel how they would play out, by imagining I’m them and every other character in the scene and thrust myself into their situation, studying every scenario and going over every outcome I can imagine. This sometimes even leads me to me writing a brief side story explaining the minor or supporting characters motives as well as telling their story as a whole.

I walk from the living room to the bedroom in search of something specific and by the time I get there I’ve forgotten what I was looking for and then I remind myself to break myself of the control the TV has over me and I try to sketch, or doodle something I see in my head until I forget whatever the heck it is that I’m doing, before I finally crack my knuckles and dive back into my writing.

When people knock on the door, I hide. When my phone rings, I yell, “Oh, who in the blazes is bothering me now?!” and don’t answer. But always check to see if they left me a nice little message.

Or when I’m stuck on a piece I call up a trusted friend explain a scene to them and ask for their thoughts, then throw out everything they say and come up with something completely different and new as I thank them for all their help and support right before hanging up on them in mid-sentence.

When I go for walks in the neighborhood I carry my Ipad and can often be seen exclaiming in triumph or scowling or laughing maniacally as I type frenziedly on it’s lovely keyboard before screaming out with vengeance, “Damn you autocorrect!” as I raise my fist to the heavens and shake it vigorlessly towards the sky.

Sometimes I worry that the house is going to burn down. This is why I keep my notebook in a fireproof, waterproof safe and have invested a small fortune in USB drives, portable hard drives, which I have scattered all over my house and place them inside my lovely safe. So when I go on vacation, I leave the key on top of the safe with a note for robbers asking them to please open the safe before deciding to steal it, because if they’d only open it, they’d see a picture of me, with a note pleading to them not to steal it, for I am a lowly writer and I will one day write a story that changes the world, because people will read again! And if they steal from me, I will find them and forever immortalize them in my next book, giving them every character flaw known to man, also explaining that I’m most likely broke and don’t keep any useful banking info on my computer, so there’s nothing really worth stealing anyway.

Before I had a fireproof, waterproof safe, I kept my notebook in a padded carrying case, which never left my side. Then Stephen King had told me that sometimes you’re too close and you just have to back away from your writing for a while– sometimes a long while and sometimes even longer than that. Things are a lot clearer after you’ve had some distance. Much like an ex-girlfriend who no matter how hard you tried making things work, the relationship simply falls apart and can’t be saved. But also like the rare ex, when she calls you up after a period of eleven months you begin to discover her all over again and remember why you had fallen in love with her in the first place. Which I’ll remind you, can cause a whole mess of other problems. But I digress…

I worry constantly about whatever book I’m currently writing. I worry about the wording, I worry about the themes, the plot as a whole, whether the characters seem to others the way they seem to me, whether the book is getting too long, whether my protagonist is likable, whether my fantasy world is consistent, whether I’ll be able to hold everything together, whether there’s even anything worth holding. There is never a moment when I don’t have something to worry about. I have learned however that this is just what it feels like to write a book. Most of the time, I can keep it from bothering me. You get good at ignoring the voices. Or giving them the attention that’s best for them: listening to them and laughing and giving them a hug, and saying, “Yes, I know you’re worried. It’s okay. Let’s go watch a pretty sunset and oh, let’s go get us a nice strawberry smoothie!”

I take my writing way too seriously. I can’t help it. I love it so much and writing is my life. Without I doubt I would have ever survived craziness of it all.

And writing is a strange activity, but humans are weird, right? A writer is an extreme type of a human being, we tend to over analyze everything, although we seem very good at reading people and noticing subtle plot changes, which by no means do we ever like it when it happens. I for one love and embrace change, while I also hate and fear change as well. But that’s just me and I’m a writer and writers are a little eccentric, a little weird and we’re all complex souls and I’m no exception. Because I also find that everything has its own soundtrack and whenever I write a new story I can be often be found making a playlist to coincide with my story, which helps me get into tune with my story and even helps with some much needed inspiration at times, and helps block out all the white noise after a long and arduous day of maintaining one’s sanity at their day job, along with all the little nuances that come with having a personal life.

So this is why I write and I hope I hadn’t bore you much, for I did try to be humorous because writing is supposed to be fun and should have some personality, and I think we can all agree that (Good) writing should inspire some kind of feeling, hope, love, fear, excitement or leaving you feel simply inspired.

-J Cooper.