August 2, 2018

Wander-writing

Posted in Creativity, First Drafts, flow in writing, freewriting, Ideas, organizing your writing, writing techniques tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:45 am by Rebecca Hein

Wander-writing, unlike freewriting, begins with a topic or idea, but there the structure stops. In wander-writing we start approximately where we do in a first draft, but instead of trying to produce a coherent piece, we let our subject take us wherever it goes.

I also do this frequently with any project I’ve already begun, but feel is going off the rails, even slightly. It’s an easy, relaxing way to explore my ideas and to tackle problems of organization or approach. After enough wander-writing for this purpose, I usually discover that my difficulties have resolved themselves, and I can easily complete whatever I was working on.

The supreme virtue of wander-writing is our liberation from any requirement to impose order on what we’re writing, to improve it, to stay on topic, or to revise. The rule is to let the subject lead us to what we are really thinking, or what we most want to write about it. This sweeps aside mental clutter and also deepens our writing—important benefits of letting our creative selves go.

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May 29, 2018

You can’t contrive a creative success

Posted in Connecting with readers, Creativity, Ideas, music and writing, performance, publication, self-evaluation, Success tagged , , , , , , at 6:35 am by Rebecca Hein

The success of “Compose Yourself” was spontaneous. Beforehand, I had no idea it would elicit so much more appreciation than did my other columns, which were nearly as good—as far as I could tell. This spontaneity was what I temporarily lost during the months I spent trying to equal the impressive effects of “Compose Yourself.” Now I know why.

Rather than writing from my deepest passions, I was trying to play to the crowd. It was a subtle change in direction, and when it didn’t work, I abandoned the effort and accepted the obvious fact that I couldn’t predict the effects of my writing.

However, in music performance, there’s nothing wrong with playing to the audience, in a certain form, and I’m sure we as writers can learn from this phenomenon.

May 22, 2018

If writers are really the worst judges of their own work, how can we be sure of engaging readers?

Posted in Connecting with readers, Depth, Ideas, performance, publication, self-evaluation, Success tagged , , , , , , at 7:50 am by Rebecca Hein

When I finally quit trying to replicate one successful column, I settled back into writing-as-usual. For me that means getting in touch with my best ideas, developing them, and eventually producing finished pieces from them.

In this process, I’m not thinking about what will please readers, although I aim for clarity, simplicity, and good organization. My motive power is the passion I feel for the idea. With my very first column, I’d discovered that if I wrote from my deepest convictions, this reached to an equally deep place within a significant number of readers.

Thus, in the aftermath of “Compose Yourself,” I rediscovered what engages readers. However, the mystery of that episode remained with me because while writing “Compose Yourself,” I hadn’t been aware that its central idea came from an unusual level of depth or passion.

So I still haven’t figured out why that column succeeded, but recently I saw a possible reason why the next few columns didn’t reach as high.

March 28, 2012

Freewriting, Part Three: Why It’s Valuable

Posted in freewriting, Ideas, Practice Writing, Warm-Up tagged , , , , , at 12:31 pm by Rebecca Hein

Whenever I hear other writers say that freewriting is a waste of time, I always wonder what they expect of it. Useable words? New ideas?

If so, they might be disappointed. Good freewriting is sometimes so loose and disjointed that nobody can make sense of it.

If a good idea hits during freewriting, great. Grab it. If you get the revision of that key scene in your novel, wonderful. But if it’s just random words, don’t be deceived: the process is inherently valuable.

Freewriting teaches ease and flow, and you have to trust that even if your language is empty and chaotic, the experience of pouring out words—any words—is well worthwhile.

October 26, 2011

Artful Disguise

Posted in Ideas tagged , , at 5:14 pm by Rebecca Hein

Cellists face a set of unavoidable problems in playing, such as how to disguise the moment when we must change bow direction, thus breaking the sound. In a similar way, a writer can’t create a perfectly smooth narrative because specific points of information must be conveyed to the reader.

In music, if you achieve sufficient momentum, this in turn creates resonance which vibrates throughout bow changes and cover them up. The writer’s equivalent is to launch a story with enough energy in it, early on, that the necessary information emerges naturally. Then the reader is less likely to notice the device used.

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