Last night I read in John Creswell’s book Research Design some writing tips which hit a chord with me as I realised that I did these tips unwittingly. Soon after I finished the chapter in Creswell I read on Lisa Kirazian’s blog that she was taking a vacation and she was anticipating being highly productive as the ideas would flow when she was relaxed. She goes on to give some tips about how to write whilst relaxing. This made me ponder about my own holidays. I rarely write whilst holidaying and keep it in my head to get down at a later date.
This is also my technique when dog walking, dreaming, and any other time when thoughts come to me at a time when it is inconvenient to write. Both Creswell, Zinsser and Lisa say not a good idea. The words are worthless whilst floating in your head, most probably forgotten before you get to a computer. I think I will try using my mobile phone’s video and achieve both a movie of the dogs and a recording of my great (I wish) thoughts.
Charli in her post this week on Why I write discusses her motivation to write and talks about writing into truth whilst her post When wolves give chase looks at the inner strength and thick skin that writers need to overcome their vulnerabilities which are often huge.
It is often these wolves nipping at the heels or in my case the monkeys on my shoulder being super critical that bring the writing to a full stop, commonly known as writer’s block.
Hemingway used to overcome this block by always finishing for the day mid sentence, mid paragraph but certainly never at the completion of a chapter. This way he could return to his work and pick up from where he left off, the flow unimpeded.
What happens though when you do have the block? Creswell suggests that you write a letter to a friend. I tend to blog or send an email. The main thing is to get that flow started. Creswell suggests other warm-up exercises such as describing an object by its parts or size without letting on what the object is or write about a subject giving three different takes on it or any other exercise that gets you writing.
His other suggestion which I find interesting is to ensure that the place you write is as unappealing as possible. The place I write suits this criteria as it is a small room with high windows giving me of a view of nothing but the sky. Compared to my huge study which looked out over the garden and the dam in my old house it is non-stimulatory. Where did I get the most writing done? The answer is definitely here in this small room where I am not distracted. Creswell quotes the Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Annie Dillard who said “One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.”
Other suggestions he makes are
make a routine of writing daily and when you are alert
Small regular amounts are better than binge writing
Work on 2 or 3 writing projects at the same time so that you don’t burn out working on the same project all the time.
There are a few more suggestions in his book Research Design page 81 although as the title of the book suggests writing technique is only mentioned briefly. The other suggestions revolve around planning your writing time and creating time to write.
Have you got any tips to start the flow?