In my experience, I’ve come across three types of writers:

1. The Microwave Writer: writing well under pressure.

Some writers do well under the pressure of a deadline. They’re like a microwave. Put the ingredients together and – zap! – you’ve got a meal.

How do you know if you’re a microwave writer? Think back to when you were in college. Did you wait until the week the essay was due before beginning work? Perhaps you gathered some materials together beforehand, but you saved the writing part of your work until the night before the due date.

Microwave writers may try to get a head start, but they find they can’t summon the necessary passion. Their best work is done under the gun. Once you know you have mere days (or hours) before you need to deliver a finished product, your adrenalin kicks in. Streams of creativity pour forth from your moistened brow.

I know writers who belong to this category, but I’m not one of them. I tend to question the quality of my work if I haven’t left some built-in reflection time about what I’ve written. Pressure helps me only if the deadline is self-imposed and not “real.” (More on that momentarily…)

2. The Crockpot Writer: writing slowly over a long period of time.

Other writers are like a crockpot. They put all their ideas into the pot and let them stew over time.

Each day, they write a few paragraphs. Their work schedule is consistent. Once they have a deadline, they divide the workload into manageable chunks so they can maintain a reasonable pace.

I have a friend who fits this category. He has been working on his manuscript for more than a year now. His book won’t be very long, but I trust it will be very good.

The crockpot slow-but-consistent method works well for some writers, but not for me. It draws out the writing part of the process, and frankly, I don’t particularly enjoy the writing part of writing. I like writing because I like ideas. Writing is the method by which I communicate those ideas. Putting pen to paper doesn’t thrill me; putting ideas down for others to discuss does.

3. The Stir Fry Writer: writing quickly at the outset, leaving time for appropriate seasoning

This is me. I’m a stir-fry guy. Pour all the ingredients into the pan. Heat them up quickly, but then give the meat and vegetables time to soften.

I blog this way. I may write three or four posts in one day. But putting the ingredients into the pan doesn’t mean the meal is ready to be set on the table. I need time for the ideas to cook, for the writing to be seasoned. And time also gives me veto power so I can toss out overcooked posts and start over if I realize my idea isn’t worth sharing.

I also write books this way. In 2010, when I found out that I had a September 1 deadline approaching for my next book, I self-imposed a deadline of July 4 for a full manuscript to be ready. The self-imposed deadline worked well for me. I finished an initial draft in several weeks, but I had a full month to mold that initial burst of writing into something publishable. I then spent one more month tweaking and seasoning the publishable product into something I could be happy with.

What about you?

Some writers need a deadline to push them to action. Others need to space out their work over a long period of time. For me, it’s best to make serious progress up front and give myself plenty of time to work out the kinks later.

What about you? Do you fit one of these descriptions? Or would you describe yourself differently? How do you work best?


Originally posted September 7, 2010.