I know that Christmas is over and the new year is nearly upon us, but I wanted start a new little series to help one and all begin the year right with writing goals and productivity.
On this first day of the 12 days of writing, I’m meditating on the free writing exercise aimed at silencing the inner editor. I’ve been teaching creative writing for a year now. Before that I taught basic college composition. Nearly all of my students at one time or another, whether it was in my composition classes or my creative writing classes, said they could not write. What they really meant is that they could not get past the little voices in their heads that told them they could not write the perfect sentence, the perfect paragraph, or the best selling novel. The problem, of course, is that they see the finished products of brilliant writers and never imagine that there was a beginning or a process for that matter.
How do I get them past this, even in a composition class? I show they can begin the process through free writing. I give them prompts and tell them they have to write for 10 minutes without stopping or pausing. When I see them pause I become something like Jillian Michaels but a bit more toned down. I tell them to keep the pen moving. I tell them even if they’ve gotten off subject, don’t think. Just keep the pen moving.
It seems such a basic notion, but even in my own writing practice I can forget the magic of constantly moving the pen. I can hear the inner editor beating at the door I have locked her behind. The act of writing without thinking does quiet that inner editor, and for people new to writing that inner editor can be loud and obnoxious. Heck, for seasoned writer that inner editor can be loud and obnoxious.
All it takes is showing my students that they can get past that inner editor with writing prompts and timed writing. I’ve seen the looks on my students’ faces when I say we are going to write for 10 minutes nonstop. Many of them moan and protest. Then, I’ve seen the subsequent looks of surprise on their faces when they read what they wrote in that ten minutes and realize that in those bits of writings are many nuggets of possibility. They realize that they can write, and they realize they can ignore that little voice that stops them cold.
On this first day of the 12 days of writing I bid you to keep the pen moving and silence the inner editor.
The following are prompts to help get you going if you find yourself particularly stuck:
1. Look outside your window. What do you see? Describe it in detail and let the pen take you where it will.
2. Imagine a place that you would most like to be right now. Now, see that place in detail. What kind of furniture is there? What color are the walls? See you character there. What is your character doing in that space?
3. Your character is in a public place, a cafe or a professional sporting game, and a stranger hands him or her something.