Friday, September 10, 2004

Setting Free the Words

RockStories: September 2004

There's a thread running on one of my online writers' groups about our "internal editors" and the potential benefits of the "Novel in a Month" challenge that runs annually in November. Some of our members have participated in the past and found it very helpful for the simple reason that the high word-count goal compelled them to just keep writing without stopping to fuss and bother and edit and agonize.

Once upon a time it would have surprised me to learn that people didn't just blow through their first drafts, worrying about the technicalities later. That's the way I've always written, and on a day when I can devote 4-6 hours to writing, I churn out several thousand words.

It was actually my "day job" that enlightened me as to what was going on. I teach, train, write curriculum and training materials, and provide law school admissions consulting services for a national test prep and admissions company. One day, I abruptly noticed a common thread between many of my writer friends and my admissions consulting clients...they thought someone was peeking over their shoulders while they were writing!

Not literally, of course, but the inhibition factor was the same. Admissions consulting clients couldn't get a draft, or even a paragraph, down on paper because "that's not what they want to hear," and "I'm not sure how that's going to sound." Well, of COURSE you're not sure how it's going to sound! How could you be, when you didn't write it down? One writer actually told me that he consciously censored what he put down on paper, thinking about how it would be received if/when it were read by his family. For most, I believe, it is not quite so conscious.

So this brings us back, I think, to the place I began. Just write. Sit down at the keyboard, take out a piece of really is that simple. And then remind yourself that you're alone in that room. Go ahead. Write it down. No one is going to see it unless you show it to them.

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