Hannah Lee's Writing Process Video

[We see through the front windshield of a car as it is driving and, above music, hear a voice:]

"You know what I miss sorely about college, though—I miss talking about…writings. Just 'cause, like, you know, this girl here, she's filming something."

Hannah Lee: When I was asked to talk about my writing process and to portray it through video, I didn't know where to begin, which is actually kind of what the beginning of the process looks like for me. The beginning of my writing process is usually quite unfocused and can be a bit frightening.

It's like you're in uncharted territory, traveling to a place you've never been to, where you don't speak the language. Now it's up to you to learn that language, to familiarize yourself with the territory, so that you can carve out a space for yourself and make yourself feel a little bit at home.

In the beginning of my writing process, I try to find as much information as I can about the topic that I'm exploring. I immerse myself in the material, trying to get a sense of mastery over it, so that I don't feel so lost. I need to see the connections that I can make between the ideas that I'm reading about and let these thoughts stew in my mind. It's in this process of making connections that I come to my own ideas on the topic.

When I finally feel as if I've read through enough sources, or when a deadline is looming over my head, I begin writing. I often procrastinate as this stage. I think this might be one of the most difficult stages in my writing process. Once I get started, things pick up, but I often have to really push myself to get through the first hurdle of putting words on a page. This part of the process can be agonizing. It takes so much energy out of me, and so much time. I get stressed to the point of being in pain.

I can't sit and type out my paper in one sitting. I usually write a page or two before my mind starts wandering or I need to get up to stretch, or take a quick walk, or check my e-mail, or write something in my blog, or call a friend, or clean my room, or get a drink of water…or anything.

I drink lots and lots of water. It's like I need to constantly refresh myself, both mentally and physically, in order to keep going. There's usually a point in the process when I start to see how everything is going to fall into place, and sometimes I get into what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls "flow." Words just start flowing, and ideas start connecting, and the piece seems to write itself. This doesn't happen often enough in my writing process, though. Usually, it's grit, sweat, lack of sleep, and sometimes tears that carry me through the process. When I finally feel as if I can wrap everything up, it's like I've come to the light at the end of the tunnel. I've said everything that I needed to say, and it's time for me to wind down and find my concluding remarks. Afterwards, there is a lot of editing and cutting and pasting and throwing away, but the worst is over.