REVIEW: “We All Have to Start Somewhere: Finding Your Process and Making it Work For You” by Tina Connolly and Caroline M. Yoachim

Review of Tina Connolly and Caroline M. Yoachim, “We All Have to Start Somewhere: Finding Your Process and Making it Work for You”, in Tod McCoy and M. Huw Evans, eds., Pocket Workshop: Essays on Living as a Writer (Hydra House Clarion West Writers Workshop, 2021): 17-22 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

What I loved about this co-written piece was the way the authors compared their own differences in process, using these as an illustration of how other writers can go about figuring out their own processes: What works for them, what doesn’t. Honestly, one of the most useful thing I’ve ever found, for my own writing, is listening to other people describe what they do, as it helps me understand the different ways the same building blocks can be put together, an invaluable skill when you’re sitting in a pile of bricks that keeps falling down around you. Watching some else build something out of their bricks can sometimes show you what you can do with your own bricks that you might never have thought of. And that’s what I got out of this piece — more ways to put my bricks together — but more than that, they also talk about what the bricks themselves can be, so now not only do I have more ways of building things, I have more things to build with.

If “we all have to start from somewhere”, where is that? Connolly discusses how she identified herself as a “character-driven” writer, and how this diagnosis helps her to troubleshoot blocks when they occur. Yoachim describes herself as “idea-driven”, and how much of the advice that is aimed at character-driven writers like Connolly doesn’t work for her. If your inspiration comes in the form “what if X were the case?”, then talk of character motivation is going to see irrelevant. Yoachim astutely diagnoses certain drawbacks that can accompany this sort of process, and provides advise on how to counteract them. But whether you are character-driven or idea-driven or something else altogether, their most important piece of advice works for everyone: The process of figuring out what type of writing process you use is itself invaluable.