One of my assignments for this week was to use one of the “Ways In” exercises from chapter 2 of Writing True: The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction. I ended up taking the lazy route and just did a freewrite, but I was kind of pleased with what I ended up with:
I was going to write a Springboard line, but I couldn’t find a line that appealed to me, so I’m just going to freewrite. Except, it’s hard to freewrite when you know there is a good chance that you might have to read it aloud to your classmates. The filter is automatically switched to “on,” so it almost defeats the purpose of freewriting. To me, freewriting is all about giving that inner censor a break and getting to your creative side. It’s hard to be creative with the little voice inside your head criticizing your every word.
When you freewrite, the inner censor says, “Oh, you’re sitting down to write garbage on purpose? Well, I’ll just go take a nap and rest up for next time when you sit down to write your “Great American Novel.” And of course, she laughs at you as she walks away.
Sometimes I feel like I have to be sneaky about writing a first draft. I have to assure her that I fully expect what I am writing to be crap. I tell her it’s okay if I can’t spell or if I run all my sentences together because that’s how they sound in my brain. We have maybe, somehow, if only for a time, come to agree that rough drafts are for me to get all of my mistakes out on the page. If she can’t read my writing, maybe she can’t tell me how bad it is.
My handwriting has gotten very bad in recent years, and my typing isn’t much better. My hands can’t keep up with my thoughts. I wish there was some way to hook myself up to a machine that would transcribe the conversations that take place in my head and save me the time and trouble of trying to keep up with a pen.
If you don’t write a thought down immediately, as it comes out, then it will never be any good. When you are able to bypass the censor, that’s when you write your best stuff. But if you wait – if you tell yourself you’ll write it down “after a while,” – then it’s already too late. Because then you give the censor time to get her hands on your thoughts and manipulate the truth out of them. Then what you end up writing isn’t anywhere near as good as it would have been if you had written it down right away. The apple has lost its shine. The words are no longer mine.
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