I was reminded yet again last week that writing encompasses many tasks. I often feel that if I’m not actually producing words I’m not really working. I know that is untrue even though it’s not unusual for me to measure progress by word count. Yes, the end product is always words in some fixed form. But there’s so much more that goes into getting the words out and adequately arranged.
Last week I set aside the book manuscript I’m working on to travel to Fort Smith, Arkansas, to conduct in-depth interviews and have long conversations with the central character of the story. I’ve anticipated this trip for nearly three years. I wasn’t sure how it would go or what it would yield. I just knew it could be an important step in the process.
I was not disappointed. It was fruitful in two main ways. First, I collected additional and more-detailed information on a number of topics. Second, it was good for the relationship, an opportunity to increase understanding and trust. Being in the same room and having 60 or 90 minutes at a time to talk allow one to go much deeper. And in between talks, hanging out, sharing meals and doing other mundane activities together have a bonding effect.
Writing is writing. But before or even during the actual writing part, there’s thinking, researching, talking, thinking, eating, sleeping, thinking, interviewing and, for me last week, traveling. I realize I did some meaningful work on the book even though I didn’t add a single word to the manuscript.