Tuesday, June 29, 2010


BEACON FLASH #45 (July 2010) 
If you're facing a long day of writing, what do you do to get the words flowing? If you have not written for a while, how do you jump-start the process again? On a daily basis, how do you practise your writing skills?
Medieval illustration of a Christian scribe wr... 
After 40 years of writing, I now know what works for me. I also know it doesn't work for everyone. At the outset of my career I had no clue that I should be doing something to get going! As there are probably as many ways to release the muse as there are writers, I can't give you a list. All I can do is tell you what I do and then ask you all to give your techniques for cracking open the creative channel and improving your writing in the comment box.

I start my writing days with a five minute exercise. It goes like this:
  • Open my word-processing program and type any noun or verb as the first word. I often choose the word from the morning newspaper or newscast. If nothing interests me, I'll open my big dictionary to a random page, close my eyes, and put a finger down anywhere. That's the word I use to start my story. Nothing goes in front of it, nothing!
  • Turn off the monitor.
  • Set my kitchen timer for five minutes.
  • Write as fast as I can until the timer rings.
  • Turn on the monitor and read my story.
  • Delete story.
This method is brain-based. The single word triggers associations and, used at the story's start, banishes a boring beginning. The speed inhibits the left, editing brain and engages the writer's right brain, from which most creative ideas flow. The blank monitor prevents the writer judging their work (left-brain activity) as they produce it and reduces stifling perfectionism.

Sometimes, I'll use a photo and create a story from it. But I still choose a single word to start. and still only write for five minutes. If I don't finish the story, it doesn't matter. You can also do this exercise without a computer, writing by hand. But it doesn't work so well for me because I can see the words. For someone who has an over-active left-brain, I start editing, which stifles the creative story dump.

However, whichever way I do it, this exercise always jiggles my grey cells into alignment for the day's writing.


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