From the Vault – Positive Cynicism – A look at my creative process

Aaron Davis

Aaron R. Davis

[Editor’s Note – This column originally ran on the site on July 16, 2013.]

When it comes to my writing, I’ve always been a bit of a “save everything for the last minute” kind of guy.

My column is published every Tuesday morning, which means I’ve got to get it in by Monday. So, me being lazy, undisciplined and full of anxiety, I tend to write it on Monday morning. Not a great habit, not something I would recommend to other people and not something that makes me seem particularly responsible, but it’s my method and it usually works for me.

What I tend to do is start thinking about it on Sunday. If I haven’t already seen anything that pissed me off so much that I absolutely had to comment on it, I’ll start looking around or go through a notebook with stray ideas scrawled down or talk to my wife about what’s been on my mind. By the time I go to bed Sunday night, I’m already thinking about my column and I start writing it in my head.

When I wake up early on Monday morning, I’ll usually have most of it already planned out. The rough draft has been going on in my head, and so the first draft is usually pretty prepared. I’ll sit and hash it out and in under an hour I’ll have the whole thing finished, and then I like to read it to my wife so that I can hear if the writing flows well or not and so I can proofread the thing. That’s my usual creative process when it comes to writing these columns.

Now, sometimes I don’t always have a great idea. Sometimes it’s a little bit harder to make something work, and as I’m writing it, I’ll know it’s going nowhere. Those days are a bit frustrating, but I never get so attached to what I want to write that I can’t put it aside and either discard it entirely or spend some time working on it so that, in a week or two, I’ll have what I was going for in the first place.

But the basic arbiter for me of what to write about is that Sunday night of sleep. If that idea is still there when I wake up in the morning, then I know I have something I really want to say and I’m not just putting in what feels like filler.

But if I wake up on Monday and the idea’s gone … well, then I figure it wasn’t that great a subject after all. And that’s when things get a little uncertain.

It’s Monday, late morning as I write this. Last night, I started cooking up a column. I had a basic idea, I had something I wanted to say about it, and I was writing the first paragraph as I fell asleep. Just like I do on a lot of Sunday nights: I relaxed all of my muscles, tuned out the sound of my CPAP machine pumping out air, felt the AC cooling me down, let the Taylor Swift music from my iPod envelop me (shut up), concentrated on my idea and thought carefully about what I wanted to say in today’s column.

And then the space monsters came for me.

And there I was, in much better shape, wearing an Adam Strange sort of space suit/jetpack combo and flying through space with my friend Dalia shooting at space monsters and saving some distant galaxy from their space monstrous threat. We had planets to save and so it was obviously imperative that I take a break from writing my column and live out this Marvel space comic that was playing out in my head, because, you know, the children of Strontia or Zenn-La or whatever can’t eat my musings about my coffeemaker and how its decay symbolizes the decay of Western Civilization. This was about life.

So Dalia and I and something that was like a cross between the Nova Corps and the Marines from Starship Troopers defeated these big ol’ space kaiju and then we came back to Earth and went out for ice cream, where I probably watched her eat an ice cream cone for far longer than you should probably watch your friend eat an ice cream cone. And in greater detail. But soon after that I woke up and, as I usually do on Mondays, I began to think about what I was planning to write about and … it was gone. Completely and utterly vanished. I know I was thinking about it when I went to bed, but exactly what it was is just gone. Gone and replaced by memories of a pretty kickass dream and a strange feeling of wistfulness.

So, if I don’t have a column today and am writing what probably seems like a pathetic attempt to justify writing filler, well … please don’t blame the people of Tarnax IV or Hala or Kakaranartha or whatever. I can tell you from experience: whenever a crisis like space monsters appears on the edge of the galaxy, it takes all of us to band together and fight in the name of life. Sometimes, my weird rants about how they edit A Charlie Brown Christmas for television just have to wait.

I thank you, and the galaxy thanks you.

I should really go see Pacific Rim

Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at

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