How to Write More Than You Thought Possible
That title offers a pretty bold promise, huh? But I really do believe that what I'm going to write about today will help you write more than you imagined possible. What might this mystical thing that I'm going to write about be?
Are you ready?
Wait for it.
It is writing practice. Also known as free writing.
We will define it, for the purposes of this post, as any writing that you do that is not strictly related to your WIP. It is the writing that you allow yourself to write with abandon, that you likely do to a prompt, that you for sure do fast and without worrying about what words you are putting on the page. It is, at heart, writing for no purpose.
I've been doing writing practice for the last week or so, inspired by a book I bought on a visit to one of my favorite bookstores. The book is called Writing From the Senses, and it focuses on "using your senses as prompts." I like the short chapters and the writing prompts at the end of each of them.
But what I really like is the permission the author, Laura Deutsch, gave me to do my practice on the computer, and to keep it short, like 300 words. I, like many of you I presume, have always done free writing by hand. Don't get me wrong–I love writing by hand and find it very freeing. But I also never took the time to transfer any of my handwritten free writes to the computer and lots of good stuff got buried in my spiral notebooks.
But Deutsch says it is perfectly fine to write on the computer. And, yes, 300 words is plenty. I find that these little short bursts on the computer act as warm ups that lead me directly to my current WIP and allow me to work on it with just as much abandon as I do the free writes.
I find that this writing for no particular purpose other than to do it takes the pressure off, which allows the words to flow. And once they are flowing, it is easier to get into the flow with your other work as well. This, in turn, makes me eager to get to the page.
I am reminded of a quote I read long ago from Mahatma Gandhi. (I don't have the exact quote and have searched and searched for it. If you happen to know it, please send it to me.) He said, in effect, that he had a busy day, so he better spend an extra half hour at his spinning wheel. In other words, he's making the counter intuitive choice to take time to make time. By taking longer at the spinning wheel, he knew he'd be much more centered and ready for the day.
So, too, with your writing. By taking time to do some writing practice, you'll be better able to make good progress on your current project, because you'll be centered and in the flow.
Some simple guidelines:
1. Start with a prompt, just because it gives you a way in. I've got tons here on this site, or you can get books full of them, or you can consult the Google. (For my newsletter subscribers, I also always include a new list of prompts each issue.)
2. 300 words is fine. 500 would be plenty.
3. You don't have to stay on topic. Go wherever your hand takes you. Let it rip, let it flow.
4. Keep writing no matter what. Its much better to get something, anything, on the page, than to stop and gaze off into space.
That's it! Do me a favor and try doing writing practice and then move right into your WIP and see what happens.
Do you have a favorite activity that encourages your writing?