In today’s blog post, I am going to demonstrate one of the pieces of advice that I offered in yesterday’s post, titled A few random words of advice.
Yesterday, I had suggested doing timed writings, with a prompt to get you started. Writing without stopping and without the pressure of feeling that your first draft has to be perfect are good ways to release your creativity. It is normal and natural to have that internal editor. That is the thing that is going to save you from turning in really bad first drafts.
Seriously, no one should ever turn in a first draft. They are almost always atrocious, unless your name is Honore de Balzac (1799-1850). He wrote really fast because he had to pay off all sorts of debts, which wasn’t much of a surprise, seeing that he had four love affairs going on simultaneously. He wrote all night every night and hardly ever slept. Needless to say, he consumed massive quantities of coffee to induce enough insomnia in himself so that he could pull off all of those all nighters. He had great confidence in his ability to get his writing done, which is impressive because he didn’t get that self confidence from his parents, who reportedly told him that a croissant could write better than he could. Um. How rude!?
Only now, Honore de Balzac is remembered for his writing, which, apparently no one besides his parents compared to a buttery roll.
But most of us are not Honore de Balzac-style writing machines. We write intermittently, not constantly, and we struggle with writers block. So… the timed writing is one technique to deal with that. As I mentioned earlier, having an internal editor is a normal and natural thing and it often saves us from some really embarrassing faux pas. It’s a really good thing when you’re working on revisions to articles and stories. You can look at your own writing with a critical eye. But, for a first draft, that internal editor can create frustration and the feeling that your writing is never good enough.
What you really need to do is to turn off the internal editor while you’re writing the first draft. But abruptly turning off the internal editor is difficult. It’s hard to shut off that critical little voice in your head. It’s telling you, “what are you doing?” “This doesn’t make sense.” “Look at that spelling error!” “You can’t write so don’t even try!” “A croissant writes better than you!” That negative self-talk is often the result of an internal editor gone amuck. When your internal editor goes haywire, it’s time to take action. You must, at least temporarily, shut it down.
So here is a demonstration of one method, which is called a timed writing. I am going to write nonstop for five minutes. It doesn’t have to make sense. The spelling doesn’t have to be perfect. The goal is to write nonstop with no expectations. It is like stretching before running.
I am going to use one of the two prompts that I had suggested yesterday. They were “After I mislaid my keys, I…” and “The cat’s nocturnal yowling startled me into wakefulness and…” First, I will set a timer, and then I will start typing.
The cat’s nocturnal yowling startled me into wakefulness and I nearly fell out of bed. Fortunately, just as I was rolling precariously at the endge of the bed, I caught myself and stepped tentatively on the floor. Ugh, I thought, as I really did fall. What was that? Oh, another cat toy. Why does the cat play with his toys and deposit them on the side of my bed that I get out of? How rude. How incredibly rude. I felt embarrassed but not injured. I knew that I had wounded my dignity. Maybe forever. MNaybe there was no cure for an infured dignity.
Ugh. No cure. So sad. Too bad. In the meantime, it was actually morning and the cat was responding to my noisy and very obnoxious alarm clock. So obnoxious. Why did I have the alarm set to play that raucus song from the underworld. Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because I am old. Really old. Practically ancient. Almost an antique. Maybe I should sell myself at the antique store. Put a price tag on my forehead and watch people actually pay to own their very own me. I am easily trained and I can sing if they wind me up. Wow, where is that winder? Wait a second. I am old. That part of me broke off years ago. And I am a discontinued model so the parts are not manufactured anymore.
Oh, shut up, my internal critic shouted at me. What? Internal critic? Are you talking to me? Why are you using such inappropriate language. I am never inappropriate, siad the internal critic. I am your boss. Dont forget it.
Well, I did forget that I had a boss called Internal Critic. Maybe it was some bit of undigested vegetablke or…
Time expired!!! As you can see, it’s slightly wacky and somewhat stream of consciousness type of writing. That is exactly what you want. Something wild and wacky. And I left the spelling mistakes in because this is not a polished piece of writing. After doing that exercise, your writing muscle should be loosened enough to get you through a first draft. If not, just repeat the process.
Have fun, stay hydrated, and write, write, write.