Just a little something I ran up today. I intend to make a lot of creativity films in the coming months. Just limbering up.
Just a little something I ran up today. I intend to make a lot of creativity films in the coming months. Just limbering up.
A common ailment among beginner writers is a kind of control freakish micromanaging. What I mean by that is they write a paragraph and hone and tweak and fiddle with it until they are happy with it and only then, when they are exhausted and unsure of how this will marry up with the next paragraph, they finally and painfully let it go and move on.
This leads to a lot of dispirited writers, who are gradually over time although they might not know it unconsciously teaching themselves to mistrust their judgement, spoil their free flow of ideas and ultimately lose their way.
It’s like this: imagine you are painting the Mona Lisa. You start at the top left corner and start to paint. With only a scant idea of what the finished painting is going to look like on a totally blank canvas, you begin to paint it perfectly inch after inch, the background, the landscape in the distance, the trees and rocks, the top of Mona’s hair and so on left to right. You stay on each square inch until its perfect before moving on.
It’s less like the actual act of painting and more like printing it with an inkjet.
How can you know what is to come until you get there? How can you be sure the painting will be well composed if you are ignoring overall shape and focussing so intently on each individual detail as you go?
But this is what writers do to themselves, they try and write the book perfectly first time. They slave over paragraphs and read and reread them in a search for perfection. They read the paragraphs so much they become entrenched and fixed in their minds. They become set in stone.
So no wonder the writing goes off the rails. With everything nailed down, with everything set in stone, there is no room for flexibility of thought. Instead of getting their thoughts down roughly and quickly, they slave over each word. Once done each paragraph is impossible to edit, pare down or cut. It’s become a rehearsed reality, a fixed point in space.
You ask them and they say, it’s not right. The words are not coming easily and they are exhausted. You say you have to work in passes, write the first draft and put it away, coming back to it fresh for passes for sense and flow and editing. But they want to get the book done and they think that writing it perfectly first time will save time.
It won’t. I will destroy their ability to edit the words. It will make it take longer because there is no time limit on how much they can fuss over small details. It will probably dissuade them from finishing the book at all.
The first draft should be a single pass. Write fast and get it all down without editing or fussing over details or refining anything. Then put each page or chapter aside and DON’T READ IT. This takes enormous amounts of discipline, but it is essential. Write the next one put it aside and DON’T READ IT.
Just belt it down, get the words out of your brain and onto the page. If you’ve thought about what you are going to write then this should be easy. Just blurt them out, dash it down as fast as you can type. Don’t stop to correct yourself, don’t pause to think. Write in bursts, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, an hours, whatever you feel comfortable with. But have a limit.
Don’t write for 6 hours straight. You will warp your brain and end up typing rubbish. Write for two or three hours a day perhaps broken into one hour sessions. The quality of what you write will be higher and you’ll crack through the word counts like a sprinter.
But surely you need to apply some kind of quality control to what you’re writing or it will just be all rubbish. Not so, as you need to trust your ability to write down the thoughts in your head. You need to get used to letting those words flow out of your brain onto the page without editing.
It’s then and ONLY then will you see sparks of your own creative genius begin to appear in what your write.
Besides if you waste time fussing over a paragraph only to cut the whole section later on once you read the whole book, what’s the point of being that fussy? You wasted time.
Only once you finish the entire book, then you can read it. But don’t just read it for enjoyment, or to bask in your wonderfulness. Read it as an editor. First you must read it for sense and to map out the beats or pace. Are bits too long, or short, or have you made a mistake? Sort that out on a second pass.
Then you can do other passes, a read through from start to finish, taking in the book as a whole, to see how it reads, check spelling, grammar and facts.
If you work in passes and resist the temptation to micromanage each word, you will find writing a much more enjoyable and fluid experience. Work smarter, not harder.
My course for writers Writing Fit is in its second year, and to celebrate (and hopefully gain a few new students to join the happy throng) I shot a new trailer. My previous trailer was not a lot of fun so I thought I’d make it more “me”. This is what I’m really like. Seriously. I know, scary isn’t it?
To see more details about the course, CLICK HERE
If you know me well you totally get that I have a sciencey side and a philosophical side. I love science and read books on science for entertainment, and I also study psychology, hypnotherapy, counselling, NLP, mysticism, culture and spirituality on an ongoing basis as a part of my work.
Now hey, I’m not one of those tinfoil hats who browbeat strangers on the bus about knowing Jesus or Jung or Buddha, or how alien government secret societies control your mind or how science and religion are polar opposites. Nothing so loony. At the same time I freely promote the idea that there is more to life than meets the eye or the brain, to anyone that asks me what I think. It’s my own personal take on life, and 90% of the time what I believe or don’t has little or no relevance to everyday conversation.
Besides I’ve always been suspicious of people who tell you too freely what they believe. Believers or Non-believers who are too verbal about their faith or lack of it always strike me as answering a question I didn’t ask, of perhaps protesting too much. I always thought it was more important to convince yourself of what you believe, not everyone else around you. But that’s just me, and I digress.
At this time of year there is a lot of pondering, a lot of inward looking, even for those who have no specific faith or creed, and I’m sure this is true of you too. The end of the year makes you review the year past and postulate about the year coming. Its a way of processing events and preparing for the new ones coming down the track.
Rather than start doing syrupy Christmas messages, although I am a sap about the holiday season and unabashedly so, I thought I would go for some deeper thoughts about creativity and ways to prime yourself for creative success in the coming year. Now, the sorts of things I am about to discuss can seem a little leftfield to some and I realise that it’s possible that these kinds of thoughts could be misconstrued as spooky or mystical.
It’s true if that’s your bent you can read a lot into such things and if that’s your leaning there can be milage in doing so. But that’s not the whole message, intent or engine behind what I’m suggesting. You can do this whatever you know to be the truth of life, and I think you’ll notice that once you do these things they will mesh seamlessly with your lifestyle or personal beliefs.
Okay enough preamble. How can you program yourself for success and creative outpourings over the coming year. This is my gift to you this holiday season, my entire philosophy in a nutshell. Use it wisely, or ignore it, or keep it safe for reading again once you’ve digested it a little bit – the choice is yours. I don’t mind what you do with it, but please at least do me the respect of reading it just the once with an open mind. Who knows you might notice how easy it is to wander outside your comfort zone in complete safety. That’s nice, because it means you trust me. That is your gift to me.
1. See – Visualise
Do you ever stop for a while and try to visualise your successful project coming to fruition? I know it might sound foolish but it’s a very powerful tool which people have a tendency to overlook because it seems too simple. There are many disciplines which promote visualisation as a primary tool for change and growth. In areas as diverse as art and creativity, body building, medicine, sports, psychology, and even business there is a lot of evidence to suggest that creative visualisation programs the mind better than any kind of therapy, training, coaching or any kind of verbal preparation. Your brain is a computer which runs on images. Feed it programs it can process. Visualise the project you have in mind, even sometimes before you fully know what it is. Relax and close your eyes and see the project being completed and see yourself enjoying the process. You will be amazed at how programming your brain in this way improves your success rate.
2. Hear – Silence
A crucial thing people don’t have nearly enough of is peace and quiet. The tendency these days is to never go longer than a few minutes without some kind of input, usually sound or noise. What are people so afraid of? Boredom? Silence itself? It’s like the modern equivalent of monsters under the bed or in the closet in the dark. The way people act you would think that silence is a fearsome monster to be thwarted by noise at all times. Some people even sleep listening to music or the radio. When is your brain ever going to rest? How can you create anything if you are constantly receiving input? Take even as little as 10-20 minutes a day to sit and contemplate nothing. Seriously, try it. Any thoughts that enter your head, brush them lightly aside and empty your mind. Only once your mind is empty can you fill it again from your creative reserves.
3. Feel – Trust
Trust your instincts. Instinct is a powerful human tool which reminds us of our animal past. We have so saturated ourselves with noise that we can’t hear our own voice within telling us what to do, making suggestions or giving us ideas. We need to retrain to listen to the voice of our own unconscious. But more than that we need to learn to trust our true instincts uncoloured by our prejudices and ideas about who we think we should want to be. Sometimes we are not our true authentic selves but a version of ourselves which we would like to pretend to be to the outside world. Only by trusting your instincts often and having those instincts validated will teach us that we can trust our own voice.
4. Smell – Sensitise
Don’t bombard yourself with sensory input, try to detoxify yourself from the fact that everything in 21st Century life is turned up to 11. TV is too loud, food is too fatty and salty, the Internet is always on and you will never read it all or experience everything. This constant barrage of input will over time desensitise you to the subtleties of life, of your senses. If you dull your senses by overpowering them then how can you experience the full beauty and range of your actual life? Consider some kind of detox like a juice fast. If I were you I would get a juicer and juice fruit and vegetables and live mostly off that for a few days. You will find soon that everything tastes so much richer and more gorgeous and over time you begin to crave healthier foods. This can not only be good for your health but radical breaks from your routine resensitise you to life. If you experience life you can write about it, paint pictures, write songs etc. which pass that richness of experience on to others.
5. Taste – Savour
And finally for goodness sake enjoy yourself. Don’t just scarf life down like it was fast food, take a moment to roll it around your mouth before you swallow. Chew things over a little before you digest them. Start to notice things about yourself and your environment which you like and don’t like and be honest about that to yourself. Make sure your life is the way you’d like it. Someone who is unhappy in life is a poor creator, their stories are full of prejudice and hatred, their art is expressing discomfort and emotions and thoughts coloured by their lack of authenticity in life. Take the time to figure out who you are and what you want. Don’t just go along with what’s going on because you don’t have time or can’t be bothered to change or be assertive about what you desire. Taste your life.
There you have it. This is my gift to you this holiday season, the bulk of my philosophy in a brief. As I say it’s up to your what you do with this. Use it wisely or use it unwisely, the choice is yours. I promise you even doing just one of these things will expand your creative options and ensure a positive new year . . . whatever your beliefs.
My beliefs? They, my holiday season friend, are a closely guarded secret. :)
Happy holidays, and if I don’t see you before have a glorious time.
Phil South is a creative life trainer at www.creativelifetraining.com