To be a better writer, write. Regularly. That’s one of the most elementary pieces of advice I can give.
Years ago I read something, somewhere, that pointed out that the best photographers take the most photos. Yes, talent counts, but also In the process of producing art, they carry their cameras around and use them. A lot. They produce a ton of images that get discarded. Deleted. It’s how it’s done. Same applies to writing. The more you do, the more good stuff you’ll produce.
Julia Cameron, in her book about creativity, The Artist’s Way, recommends forming the habit of free writing. (Read her blog post about Morning Pages here.) I agree with her that this is wise, even if I don’t do it as faithfully as I should. Therefore, I’m writing this today to encourage you as well as myself to regularly carve out ten minutes somewhere in the day to free write. Ready for a demo? Here we go:
Sit down either at your laptop or with pen and paper, start writing, and don’t stop for ten minutes. Yes, set the timer. Start with a prompt if you need to – a Google search will yield lists of them. But I’m guessing you have some thoughts rolling around in your head you could start with. Put fingers to keyboard or pen to paper and start moving them. Let what’s in your head flow out through your fingers. Nothing much in your head? No worries. Say that. Keep the fingers moving. Just like I’m doing now. If nothing comes, keep typing nothing, nothing, nothing. Eventually something more will come. Trust it. See, right now I’m stopping myself to correct typos and rephrase things. That’s not how to do free writing. (I just did it again.) Shut your eyes if you have to, to shut up your editor. I just did. Can you tell? That editor will squash your creativity. She has a very important job. Just not yet. Let it flow. For 10 minutes Eyes closed. Try it. See what surfaces. If you see pictures in your eah [head], write them. Describe what they look like, sound like, smell like. If you start hearing a conversation with yourself. Write. It. Are you hot? Write it. Do you taste the onions from your hamburger? Write it. For ten minutes. You might wonder what the point is. It’s like panning for gold. You scoop up a bunch of gravel from the river bed, slosh it around, and maybe somewhere in that pan something shiny will emerge. When you are done with ten minutes, you can step back and take a look and see what of what you wrote seems genuine. What bit sparkles with emotion or other tuuth [truth]. Right now I’m beingging [beginning] to wonder if I’m the first writer who has been dumb enough to think showing my free writing is smart at all. It just seems like the best way to show what I ean (mean), to show that everyone does it. To show how I do it.
My eyes are still closed. I want you to try this. ShYou’re not going to share it with anyone unless you want to. Don’t be me. Unless you want to. For the most part it is not smart. We show our best. We brush our teach [teeth] before we breithe [breathe] onion on others. We put on lipstick. We make our point. But you hae [have] to start. You have to get yourself going. So keep those fingers moving. Write the sensory details around you. Use simple words. Your editor is standing back at this point saying, Let’s see what you’ve got. Put some clay on that wheel so I have something to work with. Just plop it on there. Come on. Ernest Heinway sayid [Hemingway said] to write drunk and revise sober. I don’t advocate getting drunk. Ever. You don’t need alcohol to loosen your creative brain. This dopey exercise of keeping your fingers moving will prime the pump – Oh, I am mixing my metaphors atrociously – and eventually you’ll be able to move into creative mode without this stream of consciousness. But occasionally, in dry spells, it does’t [doesn’t] hurt to go back to it. I remember one time I did this and ended up in tears because of what surfaced. Something important. You never know. Don’t be afraid. Close your eyes. Then open them and with clear eyes unafraid to look find the gold and pllish [polish] it. Build on it. Start from there. I started this idea for content with pretty dry sentences. And here I am. In full demonstration mode. Yikes. Just remember my clients never see this. They see the jewelry I make from the gold I find. The pieces of value. Just start. Today. Repeat tomorrow. We’ve got more time on our hands. Form the new habit. You’ll be a better writer, no matter what, why you’re writing.You have to step away from your inner critic, the editor who stops the flow. Give the creator free rein. Keep the fingers moving.
And I’m done. Eyes open. I want you to see the mistakes I let slide with my eyes closed, but I did just go back and put the correct spellings in brackets beside so you can actually follow what I said.
The point being, don’t be afraid of imperfection and the unknown or you’ll never start. And if you don’t start, you won’t produce or accomplish what you desire.
And that, right there, is an example of how something important can emerge from what seems piddling. Because the principle applies to way more than writing.
The universal emerges from the specific. Time and again. It’s a mystery.
Start where you are.
Are you a professional or a student who wants to strengthen your writing? Prepare for influence: Contact me to discuss tutoring or coaching. I can help you find and polish the nuggets in your freewriting.