Writing: The Process

posted in: Writing 84 comments

I still find it hard to call myself a writer, or introduce myself as one. But it’s nice when other people consider me one. So when I was recently invited to participate in an Blog Author Tour about my writing process by Jessica Smock of School of Smock, I was surprised and flattered. 

I first met Jessica when she wrote to me, asking for help with her new blog, and I was more than happy to. It was a pleasure working with her, and getting to know her. Since then, I’ve been happily watching her flourish as a writer and blogger, and even publish an anthology, the Herstories Project. She wrote about her writing process last week.

So, here’s my “process”, if you can call it that.

Write what should not be forgotten

1. What am I working on?

Several articles for Everyday Family. I write there once a week, and deadlines loom! I’m also drafting a couple of things to pitch to several websites. And of course, posts for this blog.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I don’t know that it does, but I like to think that my writing voice is unique, and that my experiences coupled with my “style”, makes my work stand out in a genre that is overpopulated.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Because this is what I’m living. I believe that we have to write what we know and love. I’m living motherhood 24/7, and my passions lie in blogging, writing, photography and baking, so those are my topics of choice. I also love that I’m writing stories that eternalize my memories of this time with my children, both in words and photographs.

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect

4. How does my writing process work?

This is a hard one because honestly, I don’t think I have a process. There are a few ways that writing gets “produced” around here.

One: I get an idea, usually when I’m doing something like cooking, or taking a shower, and I get to my laptop as soon as possible, and start typing. I rarely leave posts in drafts. When I write, I publish. If I don’t finish a post, I never go back to it. The idea loses steam, and I don’t know where it’s going to go. So I just start over with something else.

Two: I react to something I read or watch – it could be a someone’s blog post, a news article, or a YouTube video. Again, I just write. I write from start to end, no stopping to edit or add links, until I’m done. Then I read, and re-read, and do a few edits. Finally, I add links and photos. 

Three: Life is my inspiration, usually. When my kids do something, or we hit a milestone, or I see the extraordinary in the ordinary, then I write. These are usually the easiest posts, because the words are already there, they just need to be “released”. These are the posts that are the least edited because they are truly from my heart, and I don’t know any other way to write. 


Next week on March 31, the tour moves on to a couple of writers who I love reading.

Kerstin Auer writes at Auer Life, and she’s a German transplant to Canada. I love her honest wit, and her great perspective into life and parenting. Her no BS-attitude to life makes her my soul sister. She’s also incredibly supportive and caring, I’m so lucky to call her friend.

Kiran Ferrandino, author at Masala Chica, is one of the most introspective writers I know. She covers a myriad of topics (from motherhood to world issues) with the same thoughtful intelligence and honesty. She is also the founder of the incredible Simply Om, a jewelry company who gives back.

What is your writing process like?

Alison Lee is a former PR and marketing professional turned work-at-home mother. After a 10-year career in various PR agencies, and of the world’s biggest sports brands, Alison traded in product launches and world travel, for sippy cups, diapers, and breastfeeding. Alison's writing has been featured on Mamalode, On Parenting at The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Everyday Family, Scary Mommy, and DrGreene.com. She is one of 35 essayists in the anthology, My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends. In 2012, she founded Little Love Media, a social media consultancy specializing in blog book tours, and because she doesn’t sleep, is an editor at BonBon Break, an online magazine. Alison lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with her husband and four children (two boys and boy/ girl twins).

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  • March 24, 2014 Julia

    I have a really hard time calling myself a writer. I’ve been trying to say it more often. My process is similar to yours except mine tend to sit in draft for a bit.
    Julia recently wrote…A Space for MemoriesMy Profile

    • March 25, 2014 Alison

      I have drafts too – I just never go back to them. πŸ™‚

  • March 24, 2014 Michelle

    It is interesting to me to hear your process. I seldom finish anything in one sitting, although when I have an idea, I have to write it immediately, whether on the computer or paper. I have drafts everywhere. Such a disorganized process, and yet somehow it works for me. Having not written in many years before this, I think it’s a process of improvement and perhaps over time, I will be to write something in one sitting. But for now, I often have to sleep on it, or come back to it in a week. And of course, some ideas lose steam.
    Michelle recently wrote…White Bean Chicken Chili {Quick and Easy Meals}My Profile

    • March 25, 2014 Alison

      Organized chaos? πŸ™‚ Whatever works for you!

  • March 24, 2014 Sarah

    You definitely have a writing process — at least, you write very differently than I do! I almost never just sit down and write then publish. First I write down an idea… then fill in a few paragraphs… rewrite the whole thing a few days later… find some photos… polish it up a little later. I’d say the quickest I go from idea to post is 3 days.
    Sarah recently wrote…Join us for #OneCommunity in April!My Profile

    • March 25, 2014 Alison

      I just can’t get back to drafts for some reason. I find that when I lose my flow, I just can’t get it back.

  • March 24, 2014 Allie

    Great article. I love hearing about the writing process of others. Thanks Alison
    Allie recently wrote…Clean Eating Challange Day 1My Profile

    • March 25, 2014 Alison

      Thanks, Allie!

  • March 24, 2014 Laura

    I envy your ability to just sit and write. I am always being pulled away to something else when I’m writing so that now I am just used to being distracted that I distract myself. I have more than 40 drafts sitting in my draft area, some half written that I might want to revisit, others fully written that just aren’t relevant anymore, but they’re my words and I don’t want to delete them.
    Laura recently wrote…Is BlackBerry Really an Option?My Profile

    • March 25, 2014 Alison

      I know what you mean. I still have those drafts. Some are just notes. I have tried going back to them, and nada, it just doesn’t work for me unfortunately. I know what you mean by distractions – which is why I only write when I’m alone, which is hardly these days. Sigh.

  • March 24, 2014 sarah reinhart

    Yes! “Write what you know and love.” Feel like I’m getting back there myself πŸ™‚ Love your writer’s voice and style.

    • March 25, 2014 Alison

      I love that you’re getting back there, Sarah!

  • March 24, 2014 Kerstin

    You know that you are one of my favourite people in the whole world wide web, right?
    And a fabulous writer for sure. Your words never fail to touch me. I think one of the things I admire you most for is your honesty – your stories about losing it with another driver, about the days when you don’t love it and about the existential bummer; I think about those stories often. (and that’s no BS πŸ˜€ ) Thank You.
    Kerstin recently wrote…On the RadioMy Profile

    • March 25, 2014 Alison

      Thank YOU, Kerstin. Friends like you remain one of the reasons I keep writing, even when there are doubts in my mind about my words. I can’t wait to read your post next week!

  • March 24, 2014 Nicole

    Alison, you should wear your writer badge proudly! You are an incredible writer and inspiration to many!

    Love both of the quotes you included!
    Nicole recently wrote…The Hips Don’t LieMy Profile

    • March 25, 2014 Alison

      You’re too kind, Nicole, thank you.

  • March 25, 2014 julie gardner

    I could NOT call myself a writer (without choking and blushing) until the day I heard my son tell someone else that I was.

    It might have been one of my proudest moments, actually.
    And it’s why I can’t give up. Ever.

    • March 25, 2014 Alison

      That is amazing! And you ARE a writer, an amazing one may I add.

  • March 25, 2014 Poppy

    You ARE different and it is a very good thing.
    Poppy recently wrote…Introducing the Blogging BettiesMy Profile

    • March 25, 2014 Alison

      You’re very sweet, Poppy, thank you!

  • March 25, 2014 Lisa

    These posts are so interesting! I love reading how posts come to life for other writers. I am a very planned person and rarely write “spontaneously.” I like to have some sort of prompt and I almost never hit publish as soon as I’ finished. πŸ™‚
    Lisa recently wrote…Thirty Things – Post #1 – Twenty Random ThingsMy Profile

    • March 25, 2014 Alison

      I used to be more organized like you. These days, I have to grab my writing moments. πŸ™‚

  • March 25, 2014 Tamara

    I don’t want to say too much, because I’m participating in this too!! Yay! And being called a writer is a new one for me, and a whopping new one for me.
    I think we think similarly about a lot of this!
    Tamara recently wrote…I Had No Idea How Much I’d Need Her.My Profile

    • March 25, 2014 Alison

      I can’t wait to read yours!

  • March 25, 2014 Allie

    You are absolutely, 100% a writer and a damn good one!
    My process is similar to yours although I usually jot down my ideas on my phone, and then, when I have time, I sit and write from start to finish. I get in the flow and have to stick with it!!
    Allie recently wrote…The Rundown: No Rest for the WearyMy Profile

    • March 25, 2014 Alison

      You’re very kind, Allie!
      I really under-use my phone. Maybe if I stop playing Candy Crush on it….

  • March 25, 2014 Alexa

    My writing process is almost identical to yours! Strike while their on is hot approach!
    Alexa recently wrote…Motherhood RealizedMy Profile

    • March 25, 2014 Alison

      Yes, exactly!

  • March 25, 2014 Ann

    I really like that phrase “eternalize my memories.” I think that speaks to many bloggers who are trying to find a niche (rather than just saying “Lifestyle”). Maybe I shouldn’t speak for other people though–but that says it for me.
    Ann recently wrote…Texas BluebellsMy Profile

    • March 25, 2014 Alison

      Yeah, I’m not comfortable with the “lifestyle” tag – what is that really?

  • March 25, 2014 My Inner Chick

    —-I hear several people admit exactly what you just stated, Alison Lee …(about being uncomfortable telling others they are indeed a “Writer.”)

    That’s like being uncomfortable saying you don’t breathe or live or eat!!

    You are so many things, dear, including a writer w/ good voice.

    Xx Interesting Post.
    My Inner Chick recently wrote…Cheating On My Husband With Facebook, Blogs, & TwitterMy Profile

    • March 25, 2014 Alison

      You’re so amazing to me, Kim. Love you. xoxo

  • March 25, 2014 Natalie

    I can just see you with an idea in the middle of cooking and grabbing your laptop to write it up πŸ™‚
    Natalie recently wrote…Three is My FavoriteMy Profile

    • March 25, 2014 Alison

      Hah! Yes, I do that quite often. πŸ™‚

  • March 25, 2014 Christa Sterken

    I too love to hear about other writer’s processes! Thanks for sharing…i make plenty of “plans” for a writing life but usually wind up with an idea at 12 am and run down to hammer it out

    • March 25, 2014 Alison

      You’re very dedicated, Christa!

  • March 25, 2014 Greta

    Of course you’re a writer! This sounds a lot like how I do it, too.

    • March 25, 2014 Alison

      You need to say that to yourself too, Greta!

  • March 25, 2014 alexandra

    I don’t think I can say anything else for the next six weeks, minimum, except “You’re having twins.” I AM SO HAPPY I CAN BARELY STAND IT.

    • March 25, 2014 Alison

      Ooh, I love that you’re happy!!

  • March 25, 2014 Keely

    Listen- if you’re not a writer, then no one is, sister.
    Keely recently wrote…My Sis Does A Chicago FlyBy.My Profile

    • March 25, 2014 Alison

      You’re the sweetest person that ever was.

  • March 25, 2014 AwesomelyOZ

    This is so great congratulations on the invitation πŸ™‚ I’m by no means a writer nor consider myself one but I like playing with words and I’ll leave it at that. πŸ˜€ I have the same writing process except sometimes I lose words and essays remain in draft mode until something re-sparks my interest on that topic. Rarely does it happen but ideas are there – words are there, I’ll play with them eventually. Happy Monday Alison! -Iva
    AwesomelyOZ recently wrote…GTFO: A Word on the Hot-TemperedMy Profile

    • March 25, 2014 Alison

      I like that imagery of playing with words, Iva!

  • March 25, 2014 Kim

    I love reading about your process. I tend to write in stages but i like to get that uninterrupted burst in first, when the words are fresh. Then leave it and go back and edit. And go back again. And usually again.
    And I have A LOT of drafts. I really should do something about those. πŸ™‚
    Kim recently wrote…You Like Me, You Like Me NotMy Profile

    • March 25, 2014 Alison

      I wish I had loads of drafts. It’d be good to be able to get to them when I run out of ideas, which is often!

  • March 25, 2014 Kimberly

    I started calling myself a writer when I got embarrassed calling myself a “homemaker” when the kid went to school. Really though…we are writing. What defines a writer? Exactly what we are doing. I am in a book, I write for a magazine. I think it’s cool because not a lot of people put themselves out there and we have to be honest, it takes talent to do what we do.
    Things pop up whenever just like you. Always when I don’t have any paper to write the idea on though. I cringe thinking of all the ideas lost. Sigh…
    Kimberly recently wrote…Sleeping With One Eye Open | Bipolar And ParanoiaMy Profile

    • March 27, 2014 Alison

      YOU are such a talent, my sweets. I am so proud of you.

  • March 25, 2014 Maggie S.

    Saving things in drafts. Writing all the way through without stopping. It was like a shaft of light came down and shown on the computer and the angels sang. Something about them made sense. I wish I could articulate the shift, but wow!
    Maggie S. recently wrote…Monday MomentumMy Profile

    • March 27, 2014 Alison

      I’m glad you took that plunge and felt the shift, Maggie!

  • March 25, 2014 Angela

    I love to hear about your process.You are a beautiful writer. I love those quotes too.
    I write all the time everywhere I can and I always have. I write down stories in my head or moments I don’t want to forget on whatever paper I can find–receipts in my purse, napkins. I also type notes in my phone to remind myself of lines I like or even particular words that speak to me. I write journals, blogs, pitches, letters, reviews. But I’m VERY bad at proofing and editing. πŸ™‚
    Angela recently wrote…Frozen–A Big DealMy Profile

    • March 27, 2014 Alison

      Seriously? Because I barely notice that proofing/ editing thing you admitted to. πŸ™‚
      And thank you, hon!

  • March 26, 2014 Lady Jennie

    I consider you a writer (I’m sure you already know that), and I find your process fascinating. You never go back to a post? I’m not sure the posts I go back to are as well-written as the ones that float off inspiration so that’s probably a really good idea. I also like how in tune you are with what’s around you – how you react to things you read and write about them. I usually live in a bubble.
    Lady Jennie recently wrote…On Being GoodMy Profile

    • March 27, 2014 Alison

      I have gone back to posts – but I’ve never been able to rewrite it into something worth publishing, so I’ve just given up on that altogether. πŸ™‚

  • March 26, 2014 Sheryl

    I’m so glad you wrote this post. Just in the early stages of expanding my writing process, I, too feel weird calling myself a writer. I have loved your blog for a long time, so I’m glad to know that you are a success story I can look up to!

    • March 27, 2014 Alison

      I don’t know that I’m a success story just yet, but thank you, Sheryl.

  • March 26, 2014 Dee Williamson

    Thank you for sharing your process! I get ideas at strange times throughout the day too, and I try to hurry up and get to a piece of paper or my laptop to get it out. I like the idea of writing from start to finish and going back to edit. I should try that…
    Dee Williamson recently wrote…Weekly Recap & Broiled GrapefruitMy Profile

    • March 27, 2014 Alison

      Try it! Free writing is such a good practice, I think everyone needs to try it occasionally.

  • March 26, 2014 Rorybore

    I currently have 3 posts sitting in draft; which is typical. I sometimes do this as a back up to those times when inspiration is lacking. Or worse, a total block.
    Other than that, I don’t know that I have a process either. I have journals I write in (and I only I can read – good grief my penmanship!) whenever a thought, idea or inspiration strikes because I am not always near my computer. I like the old feel of pen scratching on paper. Sometimes they become something – sometimes it takes a while to “birth” them. Write now my aim is to Just Write. Just get in the habit – even if it’s not always something that will change the world. Just keep the practice. Find my voice.
    Rorybore recently wrote…Tuesday Coffee Chat: I Must Ask YouMy Profile

    • March 27, 2014 Alison

      Just writing is AWESOME practice. I try to do that at least once a week, because I want it to be a habit. It’s the best way I know to write, so I want to get good at it.

  • March 26, 2014 Nadia

    Thank you, this was exactly what I needed to help me stop my blogging block. Do you have ideas for picking post titles? That is a hard one too.
    Nadia recently wrote…Photography Can Be RelaxingMy Profile

    • March 27, 2014 Alison

      I have no secrets to post titles, to be honest! I usually write them AFTER I finish the post, picking something from what I’ve written. There is a rare occasion when the titles come before the post, based on the post idea. That’s not much help, is it?

  • March 27, 2014 Adrienne

    Oh I loved this. What a great idea. I know what you mean about sitting down and finishing a post. I have SO many posts in drafts. It’s sort of ridiculous. I usually start, get sidetracked, and then by the time I revisit the idea, it’s lost something and then, well…It remains a half written post in the draft graveyard. It really sucks when I don’t make it through a post idea and then the next day I’ll see someone else has written the same thing-only much better. LOL I’ll think, “Yes! That’s what I was trying to say!”

    And PS? You are a writer!
    Adrienne recently wrote…Are you my mother?My Profile

    • March 27, 2014 Alison

      Hah, that happens to me all the time, Adrienne!
      And thank you.

  • Write em while they are hot is my preferred strategy too. Only I don’t get to do that very often…

    • March 27, 2014 Alison

      I know what you mean!

  • March 27, 2014 Janice Trinh

    First, I love your new bio on the sidebar! So exciting! πŸ˜‰
    I love your writing style. Thanks for letting us know how you write. I find it interesting that you write in one sitting and publish right away. For me, I’m still looking for a process that works. I’d love to be able to capture moments too – ones that I’d want my kids to read someday – but they keep passing by without me writing them down. I really need a technique to do this!
    Janice Trinh recently wrote…The Courage to Keep On MotheringMy Profile

    • March 27, 2014 Alison

      I would take notes. If they say something funny, write it down in your phone. You already capture moments with pictures, tap some notes on those! πŸ™‚

  • March 27, 2014 Rebecca

    For blogging, I usually write a rough draft to get all my thoughts out and then fancy it up later. For other writing. . . well, I need to get there!
    Rebecca recently wrote…Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge: Twitter List TutorialMy Profile

    • March 27, 2014 Alison

      I like that phrase – fancy it up. πŸ™‚

  • March 27, 2014 Christine

    I love hearing about other people’s writing process mainly because I don’t think that I have one! I do a lot of mental writing – twisting and turning around an idea, whether for an article or a blog post, in my mind to figure out what I want to say and how I’m going to say it – structure, photos, etc. When I actually sit down to write, much of it has been written in my head and I write it and edit.
    Christine recently wrote…Reebok True Studio Slipper ReviewMy Profile

    • March 27, 2014 Alison

      I do the same thing – write it in my head. BUT, the difference between you and me is, I always write better in my head than actually writing. When I’m finally sitting down to do it, I’m like…. duh.

  • March 28, 2014 Andrea

    It is interesting to read about your approach to writing, Alison. I have a similar style, except I have a whole document of drafts. I rarely go back, though, and I should just delete it, but who knows? There might be something there.
    Andrea recently wrote…Getting AheadMy Profile

    • March 28, 2014 Alison

      I have lots of drafts too – except I never go back to them πŸ™‚

  • March 28, 2014 Tammy

    I love that — we write to taste life twice. And I’m the same way. If I write about something and don’t finish it, it dies. Sad, but there are a lot of drafts sitting on my computer that will never see the sun.

    • March 28, 2014 Alison

      Me too!

  • March 29, 2014 Elaine A.

    Our writing “processes” are very similar. I think that is why a blog is such a good fit for me (and you!). Thank you for sharing this with us!

    • March 29, 2014 Alison

      I know, right? I totally can’t write a book or anything like that. That requires too much sitting down to write every day.

  • March 29, 2014 Rebeccafaith

    As a big fan of all things Alison, I especially like this post because I’m very passionate about writing and as a result I am fascinated by writing processes of those that I admire. I also have those fleets of inspiration and if I don’t drop what I’m doing to pursue them, I lose it forever. The other night I had a great book title and the first few pages written in my head and I said, “oh I’ll remember tomorrow” because I didn’t want to get out of bed. Yeah, poof. It’s gone. Thanks for giving us the inside scoop girl. It’s more inspiring than you know!
    Rebeccafaith recently wrote…Unintended Consequence: Stop Copying MeMy Profile

    • March 29, 2014 Alison

      You’re too sweet, Rebecca!
      Write it while it’s hot, right?

  • April 9, 2014 Jessica

    I love your process! It seems so efficient! I can’t say that I abandon drafts. I sometimes do return to them when I have more time. I continue with them, however, only if I feel inspired. I don’t have a schedule for blogging. Maybe I should. But I just write when inspired and when the time permits. For my writing elsewhere, I do what I can when I can. I am working on a pitch now for a national magazine. It’s taken me awhile, but usually I can pitch within a week.
    Jessica recently wrote…Letting Things GoMy Profile

    • April 9, 2014 Alison

      It is efficient I guess πŸ™‚ It has to be, I snatch time to write, rather than make time for it.
      Good luck with your pitch!

  • April 14, 2014 E. Thai

    I’m so glad to have found your blog! From BlogHer, by the way. I really enjoyed reading your posts in the blogging and baking categories. Reading your bio, “Malaysia” caught my eye. I’m originally from there.

    I love to write. Sometimes it comes easy to me, and I can write and publish in one sitting. But usually it takes me much longer as I get distracted easily. Like you, my drafts never get published.
    E. Thai recently wrote…April showers bring May flowersMy Profile

    • April 14, 2014 Alison

      Hi, fellow Malaysian, thanks for stopping by!
      Ah drafts. I go back to them sometimes, in the hopes that I can find an inkling of inspiration there. But, nothing. πŸ™‚

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