Happy New Year! And being a new year, let’s start as we mean to go on. Just Write. There’s a maxim to live by, eh? And although it sounds easy enough, it’s not something that necessarily comes naturally.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been writing a passage and have paused – to think of the right word; to work out the order the next few sentences are going to go in; to go back and correct a spelling mistake I’ve seen; to solidify an idea I’ve just had… the list is endless.
And it’s at those times that the rule of “just write” takes a back seat to more pressing concerns. It doesn’t sound like a big deal though does it? And maybe it isn’t. But consider that while you’re pondering the significance of your last comma, other things are going on.
Writing in the flow is a different state of mind to writing deliberately. While you’re being careful about your prose, you are not free to fully explore the story you’re penning. Even a little care means that you’re being constrained in subtle ways that you did not realise.
I have been aware of this for a good few years (or at least I thought I was). I have often advocated freewriting as a method to generate ideas, believing it to be (as the name implies) an access to a less constrained road from mind to fingers.
BUT this has never really, truthfully been applied to my daily writing. Recently though I introduced a word target for my daily train writing. Given my very limited time on the journey, it’s a challenge to meet the word count. This means there is simply no time for pontificating – I race through it as soon quick as I can.
Does this give me the best writing ever? No. It’s no doubt sloppy and will need lots of tidying up.
But what I have found is my usual tendency to try and be concise and measured in my writing is gone. I consider those two elements of my writing voice to be good things, but in the draft stage they are less important.
What replaces this is a willingness to ramble, and to elaborate. I’m adding details that help to build the world. Sure, they probably won’t exist in their ramble, freewritey form in the final draft, but if they can be reduced to a couple of sentences, or broken up and sprinkled in appropriate places, it adds to the texture of the story. All good stuff that might never have been dreamed up otherwise.
So the lesson is.. er.. just write; a lesson I learn over and over again, just like many lessons in writing. You think you now what something means, but then you reach a new level of understanding. It’s all about slowly changing your mindset I guess. I look forward to the next lesson.