Some writers I know will sit down one day and write for 5 minutes or 24 hours (yes, I know that person) because they feel like it. I rarely do this. Now and then I’ll write some thoughts down in a diary, or I get ideas for articles or novels at odd moments, but I rarely just get a strong urge to write a story, for example. In a crumbling, unfair and nasty world, every act to me feels like it should have purpose. And on many levels, that is okay. I want to produce writing that is useful. But my friend who writes in 24-hour stints uncovers some gems in the process, and ultimately I think we have to be open to just letting things flow sometimes. But for writers like me, how do you let go of the need for every sentence to be useful, for every word to count, and just write for kicks? Here are some exercises to try.
- Write in an non-permanent place. As soon as we put pen to paper, or we title a document “article that I will publish” (you know what I mean), we commit ourselves to producing something. That’s fine, but it sure heaves on the pressure to produce something good. We can take away that pressure by writing in non-permanent places, where our potentially rubbish thoughts can easily be deleted. For example, notes on Trello cards, in a document called “rubbish thoughts” where we have permission to write any old thing and never come back to it, or on a really scrappy piece of paper (like a receipt or something you’ll throw out).
- Practice being out of control. I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but things like will power, letting go, relaxing etc, actually do get better with regular practice. Still, a blank page is intimidating, so choose some of the creative exercises on this blog and muck around with them, or just regularly plop yourself in a context (garden, pub, lounge room, night time, early morning etc) and start describing it, then keep on going with whatever you feel like.
- Write a list of rules you tend to follow when you write, and then break them. If you write inside the lines, write on top of them. If you insist on writing in third person, write in first. If you write in order (chronologically or logically), stop it for a while. If you structure your article first then fill in the gaps, do it the other way around. If you write in long paragraphs, switch over to short-sentenced bullet points. Who cares! You can change things later if you need to. It can be really beneficial now and then to get out of a rut or routine that you’ve bogged yourself down in.
- The production part of writing is just one of it’s many stages – value those other stages also and relieve yourself of some pressure. These include research, contemplation, arguing (in your head or with a friend or foe about the topic, and thereby processing it and discovering new angles), and more. Go for a walk and let your mind dwell on the topic, if it wants to (and if it doesn’t want to- fine, it gets a nice break from it, which is also important). Read about the topic, including other perspectives, and let that stimulate you.