This is how I write: Danielle LaPorte

Danielle LaPorte

Ever since I finished writing my book I’ve been a bit obsessed with how other writers write. Writing a book — writing any lengthy piece — is such a solo mission it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who has to smudge herself with burning sage and pray to the gods of Polaroid before she begins (I might be joking… Maybe). So today’s post is the first in a very occasional series of interviews with writers to see how they get in the zone and get their words on paper. I’m also asking them to share photos of their writing space with us, so we can be nosy inspired.

First up is the indomitable Danielle LaPorte. Danielle is the author of Style Statement and The Fire Starter Sessions (hitting book shelves in April 2012) and today sees the launch of her next e-program-of-awesome, Your Big Beautiful Book Plan. Co-authored with book proposal whizz, Linda Silvertsen, it’s exactly what you need to craft a book proposal that’s gonna get you that book deal. And here’s what makes it extra useful: they’ve included lots of real-life proposals from published authors (including me!) Those alone are worth investing in. Seriously. After our Fire Starter call back in 2009 Danielle was generous enough to send me a copy of the proposal she’d written for Style Statement. Having a real-life proposal in my hands helped me craft my own when the time came. I’m forever grateful to her :)

SC: What do you use for writing a) notes/ideas/brainstorming and b) your book?

DLP: Everything begins in hand notes in my Moleskine notebooks. I prefer the ones withe the craft covers. 6×9. I can outline a whole book in two pages. If I can get down the four core ideas, then it all begins to flow.

Then, and I love this part: pattern recognition. I move on to using one inch square light yellow sticky notes (you see I’m very specific about these things. Squares help me think mo’ better than rectangles. Can’t explain.) I write down different ideas, concepts, words on dozens and dozens of sticky notes. And then I lay them on a large piece of art board and I begin to cluster them. I start to see which are the Big Themes, and I place the supporting ideas under the obvious umbrella concepts. And THAT becomes the outline of the book or program. Works every time.

Then I do my first Table of Contents on my trusty MacBookPro (or my Mac Air if I’m traveling.) And I don’t look back.

How do you begin?

Usually in the bath tub. Really my best ideas come with heat and bath oil.

Describe your writing process (edit as you go? Shitty first draft? Daily word count goal?)

I have no typical, writerly “measurables”. If I had to write X pages per day, or X words a week, I’d faint from lack of creative oxygen — couldn’t bear it.

I write what feels good, when it feels good. And of course, sometimes what feels good is slamming a deadline, so I don’t drift from the goal: which is to create something awesome and impeccable and ship it. But I do prioritize mostly on emotional/creative pull.

What do you do when the words aren’t coming?

Nap. Organize stuff. Buy too much on iTunes. I also visit my Alexander McQueen and Donna Karan coffee table books. And Rilke.

Please describe any writing rituals you have (I’m assuming you have some as all writers I know have some, including me)

Well, I pride myself on being able to write anywhere, any time (being too sensitive about your surroundings can be such a creative cop out). Like, with kids dueling with light sabres by my desk, or in airport terminals, I manage to just tune it out and keep putting words on the screen. But ideally, I have a morning walk, a lush green smoothie. My desk is tidy. I light a honey beeswax candle, some hand-rolled incense, I crank some chanting tunes, and I play my wireless key board like a hot damn piano.

What’s your favourite part of the writing process/madness?

Crafting the one sentence that says it all.

* * * * *

Thank you for bringing us into your space today, Danielle — it’s the one inch square sticky notes that are staying with me!

Full disclosure: I’m an affiliate for Your Big Beautiful Book Plan because I absolutely believe in it. So if you click on the link and decide to invest in the Plan, i’ll get a few dollars in return (which I’ll be reinvesting in more books. Yay for books!)

26 responses
  1. EMC

    love love love this series! (I’m a writer and SO keen on seeing how other folks do it.) Yay! Good work. E.

  2. Lindsay

    It’s always inspiring to read how other people get into their writing! Thanks for the interview.

    Post-its are the best.

  3. Lesley Myrick

    Danielle’s writing is fabulous, and it’s great to hear her insights. Thanks for sharing, Susannah! xo

  4. Catherine Denton

    This interview was awesome. Love her top-of-the-attic-stairs getaway. This line had me laughing: “And I play my wireless key board like a hot damn piano.”

  5. Juli

    Love that you’re doing this series! Love Danielle LaPorte! Love learning more about the creative/writing process..Triple treat, this one! Yaaay!

  6. Globetrotting Cacti

    Loving this series! Writing up my PhD at the moment which is a book that no-one will ever read (although I hope to transfer some of the information into the wider world in another format). Thanks for the inspiration…

  7. shauna

    Really enjoyed this peek in Danielle’s routine and methods! And why is it so addictive seeing what writer’s spaces look like… can never get enough of that :)

  8. Roland

    It’s good to see how creative flow works for others. I must learn to tune out my surrounding more. ;-) When my kids start dueling with light sabers… Yeah, my flow usually vanishes!
    Thank you for the great interview and insights.

  9. Alicia

    I am writing my PhD dissertation right now too! I also consider myself a writer at heart. It is something about getting my ideas out of my head and on paper–it is really therapeutic. Thanks for these tips–this series is rad.

  10. Cecilia

    This is so inspiring. When I was working on my masters thesis my favorite part was group work when we could help each other and learn from each other’s writing processes.

    Cannot wait to see who else you interview.

  11. Kellie

    Yay! I got mine last night and can’t wait to sink my teeth into it! 2012 will be my year, I just know it.
    Thanks for the interview with Danielle – I’m such a big fan of hers and enjoyed reading through the Q & A. I’m a post-it girl, myself :)
    I especially like the windows into her writing world – so thanks also for that “extra” goodie!

  12. kristin

    thanks for sharing.

    can anyone tell me what the ‘four core ideas’ are that Danielle refers to in her first answer? would love to know more about what she means.

  13. Brigid Kemmerer

    Great post! This was forwarded to me by a friend of mine, as my debut novel is coming out next April, too. I love hearing how other writers organize. Post-its would make me nuts (I write by the seat of my pants), but I can totally relate to avoiding daily word count goals, and like you, I write best when surrounded by mayhem. I wrote some of my best pages while sitting on the floor at a crowded writing conference. :-)

  14. Tisha Morris

    Love to hear about others’ writing processes, especially a diva like Danielle. Good to hear she is a mood-driven writer like myself. If it’s not there, it’s not there. But when it is, IT IS! Thanks for sharing!

  15. Roxanne Galpin

    Writing is such a solitary, and sometimes lonely, pursuit. Interviews like this ensure me that I’m not alone.


  16. michelle gd

    susannah, love your interview series…and this one does not disappoint.
    i’ve been out of town and found your post/linked to danielle’s big beautiful book plan *just in time* to meet the sign-up deadline! woohoo! thank you!

  17. Yvonne

    I am so excited about diving into YBBBP and soaking up the wisdom from the tips of my toes to the ends of my hair!!
    I choose a theme for each year- last year it was “This is gotta go” about my extra body pounds (lost 28 so far) and 2012 like Kellie is going to be “This is being born”…my book. The one I have held in my mind & heart for too long xx
    Thanks for a great inspiring post!

  18. QuinnCreative

    Thanks for letting us into your process. I swear I’m going to do a book on creativity and baths/showers. There is something about running water that triggers the brain!

  19. Lou Niestadt

    “I have no typical, writerly “measurables”. If I had to write X pages per day, or X words a week, I’d faint from lack of creative oxygen — couldn’t bear it”. is staying with me!

  20. Mary

    I feel inspired knowing that I can relate to someone as talented as Danielle in times that I have trouble writing. She has so much confidence in her skills and knows well that ideas will pour in anytime.

  21. Ruth

    Fantastic! I love reading about other people’s creative process, there’s always something to take away and apply. :)

  22. Joy

    Thank you! I love Danielle’s work; it is extremely inspirational to learn “how” she writes..My take away is to be present and write–your style, your an organized fashion, knowing your dream is on that paper:)


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