We’ve heard that we should read aloud to ourselves. And we absolutely know this works. We are able to hear our mistakes, rewrite and hear it a different way to see if it sounds better.
But how many of us actually do it?
Back in the day (as my students say), copy-editors and writers read the work aloud with one another or within a group to catch mistakes before publications. Some critique groups do this as well.
When I read aloud, it sounds the way I think I want it to sound. It helps me to have someone else read it to me while I’m reading it on the screen.
This is what I suggest. Microsoft word has a setting that will read the text to you. I’ve found this incredibly helpful.
There are a number of programs if you don’t have microsoft or can’t stand the monotone.
Some writers record themselves reading the story, then listen to it while they reread in order to catch mistakes.
Let’s be honest – we all make mistakes. And to be more honest – it doesn’t look good in publication. Unfortunately, I’ve sent things out with mistakes. Fortunately, I’ve had some great editors (and publishers) who called my attention to these errors.
Some of the smartest people in the world cut down on their decision making in order to save their energy for creativity.
Einstein owned four brown suits, all alike. He didn’t want to waste his energy on choosing clothing.
Mark Zuckerberg, it’s said, dresses down to save time and energy for the important things.
I, personally, sometimes barely get out of my PJs before I begin my writing – and you know what – I get more writing done!
One writer I know said she refuses to put on make up or do her hair because writing takes precedence.
We don’t need to abandon all our comforts and regular healthy habits in order to be creative, but our energy for decision making could be more balanced and save more preserved efforts for our projects.
Write about being stuck.
Write about your distractions.
Give them a life, a reason, a purpose.
Then get rid of them.
Even if they’re not gone – at least you’ve been writing.
Steven Tyler of Aerosmith says, “Dare to Suck.”
It seems that he and his band mates have a regular meeting in which they bring the wildest, crappiest, outlandish ideas to toss them around and see if they work.
9 out of 10 of those ideas have to be trashed – but the tenth gets you something like “Dude Walks Like a Lady.”
Why not throw around ideas that seem completely outrageous?! They can always be canned later, but in the meantime you have some ideas to play with and you might, well, come up with something good.
I wrote the line, “When I killed my neighbors dog…” My friends said, you can not use that. But I played with it to see where it might take me, and I wrote “Of Strays and Exes” by just playing with this strange line that came to me in a dream.
It was accepted for publication in Pilcrow and Dagger almost immediately and later made into a podcast. You can find it kindle now, or search P&G’s podcasts.
**Disclaimer: No animals were killed or injured in the writing of that story.
Do you feel the need to have a certain, special place to write? Maybe you have little items you feel inspire you sitting around your desk, computer, in the same room, maybe there is a stone of carnelian or citrine to spark creativity, or even big dark shades to hide you from the world.
My writing space is usually the dining room table, two windows, a bird feeder on one so my cat, usually sitting beside me can be entertained. But I also write on the couch in the living room with a lap desk, and sometimes in my bed.
Dan Brown (author of the Da Vinci code and many others) believes writing space isn’t important. It’s the ritual and the commitment, not the space. He relates a story in which he was visiting his parents and he wrote in the laundry room, lap top on the ironing board while sitting on milk crates with the washer running – because he needed an undisturbed space.
I’d say that space would disturb me – and talk about holes in a story. My apologies, Mr. Brown. However, if he gets up at 4 a.m. to write (as he states), who is doing laundry at that time? And, if the laundry was put in later, then obviously someone came in to disturb you. And, by that time, he couldn’t move to another room? Okay, sorry, sorry. Back to the point.
We do need a space to write. Ideally, we want to have certain creature comforts around us; for me, it’s a cup of tea. However, I have written on concrete benches, lying across the hotel bed, in a tiny corner that had a table and chair, in coffee shops with noise, and alone in my house at 4 a.m.
The point is our desire for the ideal space should not limit our writing time or commitment (and I think this was Mr. Brown’s point as well). If we limit our writing to the ideal, we’ll have an excuse to not write when any little thing is out of place.
Brown states he writes 365 days a year. That’s what this blog is about, right? 365. It’s about commitment. It is my challenge and my commitment to write 365. I’m doing okay, regardless of the space I’m writing in.
When we think of “use it or lose it”, many of us think of the physical body. And, I have to admit that I was reading something about the physical aspect of our beings when I thought of applying this to writing.
When I don’t write for a day, a week, or a month, then I start again, it’s difficult and frustrating; the writing comes out scratchy, not making much sense. But, then, as I sit there forcing out the words, pushing the bad stuff out of the way, it might take me another week or month to get it moving again, but it does move and the flow is active once again.
Think of writing as a muscle – it needs regular exercise in order to flow smoothly.
If muscles aren’t exercised regularly, they lose mass. However, once they begin to work and move again, they regain the mass rather quickly. But the movement must be continual to see progress.
The same goes for writing. We need to write regularly in order to keep the flow of ideas as well as the flow of the story moving and our skills steady. Any disruption over a period of time will make the first times back difficult and challenging.
As always, the advice is – Keep Writing. Your skills will improve with practice and time. Your flow of ideas will improve and grow as long as you keep exercising those creative muscles.
Think of it like this:
Actually what the brain is doing is changing its local wiring, changing the details of how the machinery controlling your behavior is connected. It’s also changing itself in other physical, chemical, and functional ways. Collectively, those changes account for the improvement or acquisition of any human ability.