There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to write creatively, and every writer ultimately develops an approach that works best for them. What works for one writer may not work for another – and what worked yesterday may not work today. Writing is personal. It can be lonely and it can alleviate loneliness. It can render, change and challenge meaning. It can distract you, and drive you to distraction. It can manage you, and it can be manageable.
Creative writing is an emotional process of undisciplined thought that taps into unconscious or subconscious story. It is also a disciplined, self conscious process that manages and optimizes the potential of that story. For most writers it is best to separate the emotional, undisciplined process (generating material) from the thoughtful, disciplined, self conscious process (editing material). So, stage 1: the writer generates material, and stage 2: the writer manages material. Both are creative and can be deeply satisfying and rewarding.
Find a quiet time and place where you won’t be interrupted – and if you can’t do that, write anyway – write between station stops on the subway, at the departure gate in the airport, in the mechanic’s shop while you wait for your car to be repaired. Our thoughts and emotions – the tools of our trade – are always with us, waiting to be expressed.
When generating material lock the ‘editor’ in you out. The purpose of writing freely is to get everything on paper (or on your computer screen). These are thoughts and feelings uncensored by social politeness – how you see and feel, not how you think you should. Everything. If you allow yourself to think critically you will likely screen out your best material. How do you do this?
© Arvind Balaraman | Dreamstime.com
Keep your hand moving. Don’t pause to reread the line you have just written, don’t pause at all. If you can’t think of anything to say, write “I can’t think of anything to say’. If stray thoughts come forward that seem to have nothing to do with what you are writing, write those down too. “Sam walked into the empty store front for one last look at the place where his hope of a future – Oh crap, I forgot to take the laundry out of the dryer – his hope of a – his hope for a future lingered, tangible as the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg – what the hell does that mean? Maybe laundry smells – as tangible as the smell of old sneakers and ivory soap.”
Don’t cross out, don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar, sentence structure or logic. Don’t get logical, lose yourself in the material, in the emotions, in the flow of ideas.
© Diane Rodriguez | Dreamstime.com
When something scary comes up, write it, feel it, go with it – go for the jugular, that’s where the power is. “Old sneakers and ivory soap. He felt the loss all over again. Mistakes made that couldn’t be undone – revoked – reversed – his son’s draft card burned through his wallet, past tens, twenties, fives, through the fake leather, through his jeans to his skin. I have no idea where this is going. What the hell happens next? Does he cry? No. Yes.”
Write for ten minutes, twenty minutes, or more, at a time, write every day, and write for a week before reviewing your material. Be ready. Keep a notebook with you at all times – jot down impressions of people, places, things, events – observe and react to colors, sounds, smells – notice how people do a simple thing differently – how they fold newspapers, read labels in a supermarket, select shoes, stake out their space in an elevator, introduce themselves. Observe shop signs in a city block and write about what they reveal about the neighborhood.
Write lists: regrets, compromises, people you’ve lost, people or events that changed you, list objects in your favorite place, in your pocket – list all the objects you can remember having lost in your lifetime.
Create a story file – save articles, headlines, photos. Create a character file, descriptions, names, observations, bits of dialogue, unusual occupations
Read, read, read. Write, write, write
Using any of the prompts in this entry, see what happens when you lock out your inner editor and start generating material.
Coming soon – Stage Two: Creative Editing.
If you’d like to post what you write just click and post.