Creative process of writers (in 21st Century)

What is the creative process of writers? How the literature stars of our time produce their creativity? How to start writing and how to keep it going?


Let’s start with the writer who become known after My Struggle series. This series was sold in 450.000 copies in Norway, country of about 5 million people. Karl Ove Knausgaard, a real literature star of 21st Century, described writing “naively”—a kind of writing without thinking that’s helped him generate pages and pages. He shortlisted his daily compositional process with two things: a limiting constraint or theme, and a resolve not to analyze or evaluate what he’s writing as he works:

Every morning now, I write one page. I get up early and write one page in two hours. I start with a word. It could be “apple” or “sun” or “tooth,” anything—it doesn’t matter. It’s just a starting point—a word, an association—and the restriction that I write about that. It can’t be about anything else. Then I just start, without knowing what it’s going to be about. And it’s like the text produces itself.

I’m not talking about quality. For god’s sake, no. It’s not like this text ever looks good or anything. It’s just sitting there writing. Not thinking, and writing.

When you are not aware of yourself, you start to write things you have never thought about before. Your thoughts do not take the path they would normally have followed, and the thinking is different from your own. The language is in you, but it’s out of you, and it doesn’t belong to you. That’s what literature can do—when you throw something in, something else comes back.

If you have faith in your writing, it’s easy. It’s when you remove that faith that things become difficult—when you start to think, this is stupid, this is idiotic, this is worthless, and so on. That’s the real fight: to overcome those kinds of thoughts.

Writing is a way of getting rid of shame. When you write the whole idea is to be free. And what are you free from? From people looking at you. I think shame is an essential mechanism in social life. It regulates everything and makes people behave in a decent and appropriate way to each other. But I have kind of too much, an overdose. I’m so restricted I can’t do anything.


Jonathan Franzen, American writer, author of “Corrections”, “Freedom” and “Purity” made ‘10 rules for writing fiction‘ where one of the rules is:

It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.”

Franzen have interesting thoughts on writing process:

“Good novels are produced by people who voluntarily isolate themselves, and go deep, and report from the depths on what they find. They do put what they find in a form that’s communally accessible, communally shareable, but not at the production end. What makes a good novel, apart from the skill of the writer, is how true it is to the individual subjectivity. People talk about “finding your voice”: Well, that’s what it is. You’re finding your own individual voice, not a group voice…


Haruki Murakami, famous Japanese author in his novel “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”:

Writers who are bless with inborn talent can freely write novels no matter what they do – or don’t do. Like water from a natural spring, the sentences just well up, and with little or no effort these writers can complete a work. Occasionally you’ll find someone like that, but, unfortunately, that category wouldn’t include me. I haven’t spotted any spring nearby. I have to pound the rock with a chisel and dig out a deep hole before I can locate the source of creativity. To write a novel I have to drive myself hard physically and use a lot of time and effort. Every time I begin a new novel, I have to dredge out another new, deep hole. But as I’ve sustained this kind of life over many years, I’ve become quite efficient, both technically and physically, at opening a hole in the hard rock and locating a new water vein. So as soon as I notice one water source drying up, I can move on right away to another. If people who rely on natural spring of talent suddenly find they’ve exhausted their only source, they’re in trouble.


Zadie Smith, British novelist and professor of creative wiriting offers one similar advice as J. Franzen among her 10 Good Writing Habits:

Work on a computer that is disconnected from the Internet.

Smith have interesting thoughts on psychology of two types of writers:

I want to offer you a pair of ugly terms for two breeds of novelist: the Macro Planner and the Micro Manager.

You will recognize a Macro Planner from his Post-its, from those Moleskines he insists on buying. A Macro Planner makes notes, organizes material, configures a plot and creates a structure — all before he writes the title page. This structural security gives him a great deal of freedom of movement. It’s not uncommon for Macro Planners to start writing their novels in the middle. As they progress, forward or backward, their difficulties multiply with their choices. I know Macro Planners who obsessively exchange possible endings for one another, who take characters out and put them back in, reverse the order of chapters and perform frequent — for me, unthinkable — radical surgery on their novels: moving the setting of a book from London to Berlin, for example, or changing the title.

I start at the first sentence of a novel and I finish at the last. It would never occur to me to choose among three different endings because I haven’t the slightest idea of the ending until I get to it, a fact that will surprise no one who has read my novels. Macro Planners have their houses largely built from day one, and so their obsession is internal — they’re forever moving the furniture. They’ll put a chair in the bedroom, the lounge, the kitchen and then back in the bedroom again. Micro Managers build a house floor by floor, discretely and in its entirety. Each floor needs to be sturdy and fully decorated with all the furniture in place before the next is built on top of it. There’s wallpaper in the hall even if the stairs lead nowhere at all.

Because Micro Managers have no grand plan, their novels exist only in their present moment, in a sensibility, in the novel’s tonal frequency line by line.

Opening other people’s novels, you recognize fellow Micro Managers: that opening pileup of too-careful, obsessively worried-over sentences, a block of stilted verbiage that only loosens and relaxes after the twenty-page mark is passed.


One of advices Ian McEwan (English novelist and screenwriter) offers to aspiring writers:

You must dedicate yourself to keeping a journal. When I look into my own journals, what fascinates me most about what was going on in my life 30 years ago are the things that we would consider the most mundane. What was I reading, who was I talking to, what were the main subjects of conversation.

Where you’re living, what’s on your desk, who do you love, even what you had for breakfast, it doesn’t matter. The banalities actually begin to shine after many years have passed. You don’t have to write in it every day. Once a week would be fine. 500 words a week doesn’t sound much, but it really mounts up. That’s 25,000 words a year.


Write a journal, read, make an effort, take your time, isolate yourself and of course disconnect from internet. That’s the advices from literature stars of our time, now it’s time for you too make your novel or to read one…

One thought on “Creative process of writers (in 21st Century)

  1. When I started writing my novel, I just had a character in mind, the plot came on its own as I kept on writing.

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