TEAPOT or PERCOLATOR: What Kind of Writer Are You?

It doesn’t matter if you prefer coffee or tea. That’s really beside the point. I’m guessing, though, that as a writer you are either a percolator, a tea pot or – like me – a bit of both.

Most of the time, I am a percolator. That is, I like to reflect on new stories and poems before writing a first draft. When “percolating” I always keep a pen and notebook handy so I can jot down ideas. I make lists, play with possible plot twists, settings, points-of view etc.  For example, with both Goodnight, Ark and Goodnight, Manger, I filled almost two notebooks with ponderings and word play before I actually sat down and wrote the stories.  Once I was ready to write, I wrote the first drafts of each in one sitting.

I guess you could say at that point, I turned into a teapot!  When I’m in teapot mode, poems and stories just flow, sometimes even overflow out of me. This outpouring often occurs at the most inconvenient times -when I’m cooking, or in the middle of the night. But when it does, I just let my mind shift into story/poem mode and I go with it. Writing in earnest becomes my priority – because once that tea is pouring out of me, it’s impossible to stop. I don’t worry about getting words down perfectly. I just write down the story that’s pouring out as fast as I can. (Occasionally, dinner gets a little overcooked, but don’t worry everyone gets fed.)

But teapot stories are not ready to drink yet. Far from it. Instead, after completing each teapot burst, I turn back into a percolator again, with intermittent bursts of teapot. I repeat this percolator/teapot process again and again until every word and moment pushes the story or poem forward in a fun meaningful way.

Finally it’s time for the finishing touches. At this point, I think rather than teapot or percolator, I become like a fine wine taster- sniffing and swishing – to make sure each sentence, phrase, and plot turn has just the right – je ne sais quoi – so that the story is magnifique – or at least as magnifique as I can make it-before I send it off to my agent to review.

So, dear writing friends, which are you – percolator or teapot?   Happy writing all!

Note: Over the summer, I will be sharing some of my favorite analogies from years past as I stockpile new ones for the fall and beyond. This oldie but goodie was first published in January 2017. I was reminded of it one morning this past week because my husband was percolating coffee while I was steeping tea! I’ve updated the picture with LOVE IS KIND since I love the teapot Miss A made me to celebrate the release of the hardcover and I’m looking forward to the release of the board book in just a few weeks – August 6th!

5 thoughts on “TEAPOT or PERCOLATOR: What Kind of Writer Are You?

  1. What a great analogy, Laura! My process is similar to yours. For my picture book, God’s Protection Covers Me, I thought about the theme for many years before the book came together. I tried writing it several times with the image of God’s protection being like an umbrella, but it didn’t really work, so I kept thinking and percolating. Once I was a “teapot,” the book was written rather quickly with just a few revisions.

  2. Lovely imagery. Benefits poetic you to a T 😉
    While my regular self prefers tea, my writerly self is more like a coffee percolator. Percolating this summer…

  3. A persuasive argument to take time thinking, brainstorming, listing, experimenting, and muddling with your idea before writing! Thank you for this analogy and personal experience.

  4. Love this, Laura 🙂 I’d say I’m a percolator more with the novels I never have time to write. ALways jotting notes and picking at a first chapter and a few scenes. With picture books, if it begins with a simple idea but not a clear story, that’s a percolating thing, typically mentally. Sometimes the PBs are close to fully formed and that’s teapot stuff with a first draft, then there’s the fun of revision which I love in most ways, at least with the words. I lose patience revising art, but it all has to be “right” 🙂

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