Ralph Waldo Emerson
WRITING OFTEN JUST PLAIN SUCKS
I’m guilty of murder. Knife in the heart of stories that deserved to live, but I strangled them the moment I tried to put them down on the page.
For years I sat down, ready to write, and what emerged out was a stilted crapfest limping on the page, weighed down by expectations and fears of judgement.
Every word’s written, backspaced, re-written, because my Inner Editor won’t shut the hell up.
The results: generic disasters strangling the emotional storm that inspired the stories in the first place.
"How do they do it?" I marvel, enjoying the latest novel from my favorite authors. I crave this freedom, this energy. "How can I learn ‘how’?"
Writing ink out of my flowery pen, knowing what’s now and knowing what’s then, trying to trick out to flick out some words, sometimes the writing practice is what’s for the birds…
Yeah, that, and much, much more is what’s emerging from my pen-and-paper freeflow writing. Pages of it.
Throw in a beat, and it almost works (though not with the fire and energy of real rap artists at work.)
I’m following Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within practice of letting words flow.
To, as she often says, “exercise the writing muscles.”
STRENGTHEN THE CREATIVE MIND (because Inner Editor’s strong enough already, dammit)…
The Internal Editor barges into the creative space, and the results are dull, duller, dullest. Internal Editor has her time and place, but it’s NOT during the rough draft phase of creation.
The Creative Mind is fragile-ish. It easily retreats and cowers in the shadow of the Editor.
Likely this is a matter of long years spent preparing report materials for school, for a grade, under the pressure-cooker of time. In my case, I can slip into Editor mode in the blink of an eye, a useful skill for college. Not so great a skill for novel writing.
So if there’s a secret to unleashing your writer-voice, it’s embracing something new. I’m finding permission’s granted via the rap beat going through my brain.
Here’s the practice to make Creative Mind stronger:
Ink pen, notebook, set timer…and GO!
Padlock, padlock, swallow the key, no erasers. No crossings-out. No restraint. Every day.
…AND DON’T MAKE “PERFECT”
It’s creatively crippling to sit down and to try to make a story work, make it Something For the Ages, etc.
The word “make” even gives me shivers, because it’s such an forceful concept—-like everything you write has to be this great big monumental Something For the Ages.
Freedom from this perfection-trap comes, according to Ms. Goldberg, when you give yourself permission to write imperfectly:
"Sit down with the least expectation of yourself; say, ‘I am free to write the worst junk in the world.’ You have to give yourself the space to write a lot without a destination […]
If every time you sat down,you expected something great, writing would always be a great disappointment. Plus that expectation would also keep you from writing.”
—Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones
1. Practice writing with flow to strengthen the Creative Mind
2. Grant self permission to write junk
Want more help?
Here’s a great video about WHY THE CREATIVE PROCESS ISN’T WORKING by the great story-master NPR’s IRA GLASS. (part 3 of four in his storytelling series) titled “On Good Taste”, which I’ve watched ten times in the last four days.
-Elizabeth Ellen Everson