Planning your writing is important, but sometimes you just have to go for it.
In my last blog, I talked about planning and I’m a huge advocate of doing this. From starting with a blank page, planning helps you formalise your characters and plot so that you’re ready to go.
I don’t write my novels without carefully planning them first, BUT, when it comes to writing practice, it isn’t always necessary. There is a lot to be said for just going for it and seeing what happens.
When you write without overthinking it, magic can happen.
Writing without editing, when you put down the ideas and thoughts that come into your mind, is called stream of consciousness writing. Quite a lot of the time, when you do this, you won’t like what you write, but there are moments of genius too when you will look at your writing and think ‘did I really just write that?’.
This next thought comes courtesy of Elizabeth Gilbert in her book, Big Magic: Imagine that ideas are like little spirits, floating around in the atmosphere, waiting for the right person to come along. Opening your mind to the idea of these spirits sends out a signal to them that you’re willing and available.
Let them in and they will work their way through your mind and out through your fingers.
Yes, I know. It’s a crazy idea. But I just love it. And it really works when practicing stream of consciousness writing.
It’s the idea of clearing your mind, opening it up to new ideas and letting the ideas flow. A bit like in the way you would practice mindfulness or meditation. Many creative processes work this way and writing is no different in that respect.
Try it for yourself.
Find a quiet place and clear your thoughts of all the other things you need to do. Choose a prompt, close your eyes and think about the prompt for a moment or two, then set a timer for five minutes and go for it.
The more you do this, the better at it you will become. and being able to work this way is really helpful, not just in a blank page situation when you’re feeling stuck, but also in an exam, when you’re under a time pressure and have to come up with something that you haven’t been able to previously plan.
Here’s an example.
The prompt was ‘Lost’.
Walking through the woods. All the paths look the same. Strewn with dead leaves, brown, read and orange, crunching under my feet, my steps in time with the pulsing in my ears; the beat I’m keeping in my mind. I’m trying not to admit it, but it looks like I’m lost.
My eyes can’t focus properly. I’m seeing tree after tree, one bare trunk after another, all blurring into one. It’s making me dizzy. That, and the unpredictability of my situation. If I don’t see something I recognise soon, I don’t know what I’ll do.
I hear the cracking of a dead branch. It echoes through the unforgiving forest. My heart leaps as at the same time, out leaps a deer. She stops dead, eying me with suspicion. Show my the way out of here, I plead with my mind, though my body stays stock still. She strolls away, knowing there is no threat and I find myself wishing her to return. The loneliness is palpable and I have to face the ultimate decision – do I keep walking, stumbling blindly through this never-ending maze, or do I wait, hoping someone might come to my rescue?
I suddenly wish I’d been paying more attention. I never should have come here alone. I don’t know what I was thinking. Was I even thinking at all?
Now it’s your turn. Let me know how you get on.