The Power of Writing with Abandon
We get over the inner editor at Nanowrimo. We say write with abandon and that's why we banish the inner editor, so that you can just put words on the page and focus on progress. So, I want to give you a few different ways to do that. Exercises, Ray Bradbury had mentioned it a few times, he wrote, he would write, especially early in his career, he would write a list of 20 random nouns. He wouldn't think about them, he'd just write 'em. They'd come up from his subconscious and then, he'd write these little tiny essays about each noun. He called them pensays and they'd be like, 100 words and after that, I mean, this was a way for him to discover the story he wanted to write and after that, you know, it would be like this cauldron of different ideas and words and it would all lead to a story idea and that's how he wrote "Something Wicked This Way Comes and some of his other stories as well. I actually don't believe in writer's block by the way. That's why I'm mentioning these. People might...
say that they have writer's block. I totally do not believe in it. I believe that people, like, can be traumatized and they have depression. There are many reasons that you don't write, but, if it's just an ordinary day, everybody can get words on the page. I think, like, writing outside of the story is really good. This means for me, this means that I think most people write on laptops these days, so, sometimes, I open the laptop and it's not, it's not inspiring even in a little lie way. I just think I cannot write anything today on this and that's a good moment to, for me, to write on paper, by handwriting, to get away from my usual setting. It could be going to a cafe. It could be trying new places to write, but, there's something about, I think handwriting is sometimes underappreciated as a creative tool. There's something about, you get the thought in your head and by the time it gets to your hand, it's a little different than typing somehow. You're going more slowly. There's something tactile about it. So, I think like, like just experimenting with different, different ways to get the words out can be really helpful and then, write with abandon. Do a word sprint. This is like one of the fundamental tools we use during Nanowrimo and if you don't know what a word sprint is, I'll just give, I mean, you can set up the time in five, 10, 15, whatever you want. I'll just use a five minute example. So, you essentially set a stop watch or a timer for five minutes and you sit down and you write as many words as you can in that five minutes and it follows from the improvisational principle. Improv actors, they have this one principle. Say yes and, and what that means is that they don't think about what the other actors are giving them on stage. They don't try to steer it in other directions, they receive it from the fellow actors and they try to build on it and so, if you do that in your writing and try to be improvisational and just write for five minutes. So, I've done this exercise with literally thousands of people at this point. I've never seen someone not be able to write, you know, which is just magical. That's what, I mean, is so crazy about our brain is that you can just sit down and say write for five minutes and give people a prompt and they'll fill the page with words. There's so many stories in us and that's why I don't believe in writer's block is just that empirical example and I mentioned prompts and so there's, you know, I heard that recently, somebody told me George Harrison wrote one of his most famous songs for the Beatles. I don't know what it is, but, he opened up a dictionary randomly and picked out a word and that led to the song. You can do the same thing with your writing. If you Google prompts, there's books of prompts that you can buy or prompts on the internet or you can make up your own prompts. I know somebody who picks five random words from a dictionary and then challenges herself to use all five in that five minutes that she writes or 10 minutes. On my literary journal 100 word story, we put up a photo every month so, just looking at that photo and you know, inspires a story. I would love actually, to do, I was thinking about this doing this presentation, is to come up with an outline for a novel that works entirely through different prompts. So, every time you open up your chapter file, you've got a new prompt there specifically for that chapter. So, so the common notion is that if you write slowly, that's the way to produce great writing, but, I think there's a lot to be said for writing faster. Raymond Chandler wrote, "The faster I write, the better my output. If I'm going slow, I'm in trouble. It means I'm pushing the words instead of being pulled by them." So, I think this means, like, he's finding the flow of writing and he's like, in the zone and that's because he's trying to write fast instead of slow and there's a whole literary history of people writing for quantity instead of quality. The quantity actually leads to quality. Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day. William Faulkner wrote 3,000 words a day. Patricia Highsmith wrote 2,000 words a day. Jack Carroll rap wrote on the road, this is well known, but in three weeks. So, don't necessarily think that writing fast leads to worse writing because you can't edit a blank page. This Karen Russell quote sums it up for me, "I definitely think that if you can make peace with the fact that you will likely have to throw out 90 percent of your first draft, then you can relax and even almost enjoy 'writing badly.'" and writing badly is in quotes there and I think that's because writing badly, she doesn't really consider bad. She considers it tests, like experiments that she's taking and back to some improv. Tina Fey gives the great advice, "You can't be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute." And, that's what I think, like, a word sprint does or writing with abandon. It helps you get down that chute. You know, if you're up at the top it's scary, but, you know, you go down, it's all gonna be fine. You're gonna have fun.