Writing is a solitary activity. You’re the one putting the words on the page and need your space from the rest of the world to do it. No one is there in your head to share the activity with you. Someone may be sitting in the room with you, but you’re not really doing it together.
But what if someone was looking over your shoulder the entire time, seeing every word you scribbled on the page and then, many times, deleted? What if they saw how you chopped an entire section because it didn’t work?
That’s what one writer is doing with Google Docs. Silvia Hartmann has opened her document with the entire world to watch. They can see as she writes and edits. Of course, people cannot edit or write on the document themselves. The document, though, is so popular that you cannot get in to see everything at any one time. Plus she had to split the document into two parts because of the constraints of Google Docs.
The process of writing can be a deeply personal experience. We all feel a certain sensitivity about what we write, whether it’s poetry or even an article. You have to have a thick skin just with the final product, but imagine if everyone could see the steps you took to get to the point where you’re ready to share it. Would we start to self edit and not put down what we really want? Would we be exposed of being a fraud as a writer and a product of quality editing?
I wonder how many people I would confuse as they watch me write. I don’t always write from beginning to end. If I’m writing an article, I might not have a lede or opening ready in my mind. I write the rest, and that usually uncovers what my lede should be. And I sometimes jump around when I’m writing fiction. I may know how a scene will unfold later in the story or how it will end, but I’m not sure yet how it will start. But writing the ending, or even middle scenes, allows you to drop in some foreshadowing, a very powerful tool, earlier in the story.
I don’t think I’d be brave enough to open up my writing process to the entire world so they could see how I write. Would you? Talk about it in the comments or send me a tweet @jenconnic.