Monday, April 22, 2013

Writers Without Scruples

When I was in college I had to take one of those required writing mechanics courses that everybody hates doing. I actually enjoyed it, but I could tell my peers felt like they had been transported back into their advanced placement courses from secondary school. Heaven forbid one has to learn to write for college!

I've always looked at writing as an art. I never bought into the dogmatic discourses of my grammar school teachers who made me write in structured sentences and essays. Consequently I never did too well in school because of that. However when I got to college I was immersed into all the experimental writing exercises. The one I am about to run your through is actually one I learned in grammar school, but it wasn't until college that I discovered the benefits of practice and exercise.

Free writing is important, but many misunderstand what it's purpose is. The main idea of free writing is that it forces you to write something, to put anything down on paper to as a means of stimulating ideas. This is true, but there are purposes deeper than this and far more beneficial to the growing writer.

When writing, especially for long periods of time, generally the first hour is drudgery. It takes a while to acclimate to the material that the writer composes, and therefore I would often encourage younger writers to look over the sections that were composed during that window of time the most during the revision process. It's because in that text it's stilted and and the most contrived. Once that period is broken past, the writer passes into a mindset I would refer to as "Organic Composition," a point at which the writer is not really writing but is recording the drama of the stories action without really thinking about it. The details fade away into the static of the world, and the writer just writes, unhindered.

The goal then of free writing is to shorten the window of the acclimation period between the start time and the entrance into this writing coma. Free writing forces the writer to compose, getting them used to the idea that the story is telling itself, and not the writer. Think about that for a moment. Practice free writing everyday and watch as the text begins to flow more naturally from your pen or keyboard.

To illustrate my point I sat down at 11:10am to write this blog, and I plan on finishing it at 11:30. I had no idea what I was going to write about, beyond that I wanted it to be about free writing. So "meta," right? Trust me when I say it that I'm not bullshitting. I don't general plan what I want to write. It just comes out. Free writing does that. It forces you to see the written word from the perspective of the flow of the passage. Content is not important to focus on, it all develops through the flow of the page.

Practice makes perfect I guess. This week write for 20 minutes a day every day about anything. Watch. You will see your writing get better, your transition period reduce, and your diction slow smoother.

Let me know how it goes!

What do you know, it's 11:30.


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