Friday, March 8, 2013

Draft 9 - Let's Get Physical

Good writing habits can become boring. What? Should I sit down at my Mac, open up Word, and set the timer for the hundredth time in a row and feel good about it? There is a (crushed) rebel within me. Longing for novelty. Longing for change. And this rebel needs a little bit of freedom from time to time.

So I give myself permission to take a different approach, and that usually means adding a physical dimension.

Stand up. Sometimes it's as simple as getting out of my chair, placing my laptop on a high shelf, and slipping into my routine. Not sitting. This is a good thing.

Pace. Especially for dialogue, I find it can help if I stand up, pace until I mumble a few lines to myself, capture them and repeat. Pages come out in a way that is anything but routine.

Use a pencil. I started my career as a writer by first writing in longhand, and that tactile experience still feels good to me. And it is different. Words fill pages and strike outs, insertions, and edits are all available, present, and obvious. The tone and the voice alter slightly. The experience is renewed.

Dictate. The best gift I gave myself when I first became a full-time, independent write was a dictation program. It took me a couple of weeks to get used to the process, but now I do half my drafting through dictation. It is more productive and has extended the time between "this is too familiar" days.

Find a new place to write. Laptops and wireless have unchained me. I'm apt to write in several places in my house (and on my porch when the weather is good). And, because I am not easily distracted, I've also found it refreshing to write at the library, in hotels, in cafes, and in airports. It is especially valuable for me to "take it on the road" when I am working on screenplays. The locations remind me to open up the scenes and make them visually interesting.

Note: Adding a physical dimension to your writing is not the same as gardening or going for a walk to let ideas stew in the back of your mind. I am a big believer in that  sort of stepping away from writing as part of the overall process. But here I'm talking about is shaking up how you work as you put words on paper. So, the result of your experiment should be words on paper in real time, not later.

Skipping your writing time and missing your goals happens from time to time, but that is not a good thing. And your shake up shouldn't be faux writing, like cutting and pasting text or pictures into Scrivener or doing research or interviewing your characters. All this is useful, but it is not writing.

So, when you feel hemmed in, add a physical dimension. Use an idea on this list or find your own ways to change things up (and tell me about it). I'm sure there are dozens of ways people get out of the routine without dodging writing commitments. For me, such changes are always good. They improve my attitude and freshen the work itself. So give the rebel inside a little freedom.

See also Six Posts on Fast Drafting.
Want more? I've added upcoming talks and course to my Web site.

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