Free Writing Redux

It’s been another hectic week. I’ve managed to fit in some writing, just not any blog writing. So here’s an encore post polished up for your reading pleasure. I picked this one because I’m currently expanding the project, and I wanted to remind myself of the importance of writing freely while I restructure and reoutline.

A couple weeks ago I was thinking about process and how shape an idea without ruining it. One way of not holding on too tight to an idea is to write a LOT of words around it.  It’s like flying multiple recon sorties over the foreign geography of the idea until the target — or targets reveal themselves.

Short stories have to hit an emotional and thematic bull’s eye, but they have to be free too. It’s important not to be too frugal with world, especially when developing a story.

So I’ve decided to be even more spendthrift with words. My motto: More is more! The more I write the more material emerges from the dim recesses of my subconscious were all the interesting stuff hides.

Putting the Free Back in Free Writing
I picked up Writing With Power by Peter Elbow at Half Price Books a couple weeks ago and got a lot out of it. Much of this book is about writing nonfiction, which is probably why it wasn’t on my radar. And fair warning, this book is verbose and a bit padded out. He does not include a chapter about brevity, so I guess he’s being true to himself. I got the most out of the first third of the book, which deals with getting words out of your head and onto the paper (if revision is your bugaboo he addresses that along with audience and feedback).
Writing With Power made me realize that I’ve been screwing with my practice of free writing. Due to my own impatience (writing time is always hard to come by), I have this urge to make every word count. To write always to a purpose. What I’ve come to realize is that I can’t skimp on true free writing.  It’s OK to write garbage, to allow all that flotsam and jetsam fall out of my brain and onto the paper. Overall, I need to be more free with my words in all the stages of my writing, to expect to write more words than I will keep. It’s okay to throw away, to not finish, to try things out and abandon the ones that don’t work.
Speed Writing

This leads me to directed freewriting or speed writing (Elbow calls it “The Direct Writing Process”). Once I’ve free written my “throw away” pages, I start writing around my story idea, just writing freely and attentively, trying to let the structure and the soul of the thing emerge.

Another important point Elbow makes is not to be afraid of writing the wrong thing, because when you’re figuring something out, grasping for meaning, one of the best ways to get there is to blurt out the wrong thing and then adjust what your saying, circling until you zero in. Because it’s much harder to hit a bull’s eye without first taking some sloppy shots to warm up.

Free writing and speed writing means throwing away a lot while knowing that there are more words inside me, an infinite number of words. And most importantly, that among those words are the RIGHT words, the ones that will show me the way forward.

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