Roxane’s Writing Process

Roxane Gay

Lesson time 10:50 min

Roxane breaks down her writing process and gives you guidance on how to develop your own process. She also covers writer’s block and flexibility.

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Topics include: Writer's Block · Flexibility · Writing From Beginning to End · Developing Your Process


[MUSIC PLAYING] - I always have two answers when it comes to talking about my writing process. The one that I tell people who are looking for a process to replicate as they move into the real world, and then, of course, my actual process, which involves a lot of procrastination. But I'm one of those writers who does a lot of my pre-writing in my head. And so I tend to draft and come up with my questions that I'm trying to explore in an essay or a story in my mind. And I'll think about it and just turn things over in my mind for days, hours, weeks, sometimes even longer. But when I can't remember and retain the information anymore, that's when I know, okay, it's time for this to leave my mind and get onto the page. I'm less indulgent on the page, because in my mind, nobody's watching. I can say whatever I want to myself and think whatever I want. And I'm just very lucky that I have the gift of retention, that I can compose and redraft in my head and retain it and put it on paper. But when I put it on paper, it tends to be a little melodramatic. And so I just think, okay, I'm going to pull this back 25%. And by the time I put it on the page, I'm really starting to think, how do I reach the people who are apathetic or indifferent. And I try not to think about audience. But I do acknowledge to myself that eventually, someone other than me is going to read this. And there are a lot of old white men that read "The New York Times," and so I always just think, what does Fred889 think. You know, like, what is that guy going to say to this piece. And then I try to write the thing that will make him the angriest. But within reason. I try to write every day. You know, the thing about writing every day is, my high school teacher, Mr. McGwinn, told me to do that. And at the time, I thought he had given me some holy piece of writing advice, and I just thought, oh, okay, thank you. And now I know, of course, that's like the most common writing advice in the world. But I took him very seriously. And so I do think that writing is a muscle and that it needs to be exercised. And so I try to write as regularly as possible. But the amount of time I spend writing each day varies. It could be, like yesterday, I wrote for about an hour. Today it might be a couple hours. Tomorrow it might be 10 minutes. I do not have a set writing time. In general though, I do prefer to write at night. I seem to be able to write most effectively when it's dark outside. So generally around 8:00 or 9:00 PM or later is when I will start to write. And then I will write until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning I never want to assign my students work that I'm not willing to do myself. And so I do experiment with outlining and storyboarding and coming up with like, a novel blueprint and things like that. And it can be really useful. Those tools and practices have been developed for a reason. They do work. They don't work for everyone and they don't work for...

About the Instructor

Bestselling author, professor, and New York Times columnist Roxane Gay has connected to readers around the world with her unyielding truth-telling and highly personal feminism. In her MasterClass, she teaches you how to own your identity, hone your voice, write about trauma with care and courage, and navigate the publishing industry. Learn how to document and narrate the world as you see it—and then demand change.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Roxane Gay

Bestselling author and cultural critic Roxane Gay teaches writing for social change and arms you with the skills needed to make an impact.

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