Is There a Best Way to Write?

April 1, 2021

Here is a good question: what is the best way to write?

I don’t mean the best writing style, or novels vs. short stories vs. poetry, or young adult fiction vs. biography.  No, I mean the best way physically to write anything at all.

It turns out the answer to this question is as personal and varied as writers themselves.  At a recent online conversation sponsored by the Connecticut Forum, three highly-decorated and successful authors—Colson Whitehead, Jacqueline Woodson and Lauren Groff—each described a wildly different method for getting words on paper. 

What they had in common was isolation.  All three authors said they work in a room with the door closed and no visitors allowed.  But after that, the differences were fascinating. 

Groff writes longhand on special oversized paper that fits up to 4,000 words on a single page. One time, working on a novel told from the different perspectives of a husband and wife, she lined the walls of her office with this paper and wrote ideas for the husband’s story on one wall, and the wife’s on another.

Woodson said she’s comfortable writing longhand or on the computer, but she must have headphones on or outside noise will distract her from her work.  Her family knows that when the headphones are on, she is not to be disturbed.

Whitehead said his writing process is intense.  As he works, he alternates between spells of writing and long stretches of time when he simply lies down in the dark to think. Another ritual: when he is just about finished with the first draft of a book, he has a special playlist that he uses in the background to celebrate writing the last few pages. 

These writers demonstrate that there is no one best way to write – each person must develop his or her own habits.  As you grow as a writer, be sure to experiment to see what works best for you!