I’ve been reading Peter Elbow’s book, Writing with Power, again mainly because I’ve been feeling blocked. I like the way that Elbow admits to making a mess when he’s writing and to finding it hard at times as well. It’s comforting to hear someone else (especially a published someone else) say that they write down a lot of rubbish and worry about what readers will think.
Reading the book has made me think about how I write – the process that I use to get words down and how I structure what I want to say.
Pure free writing doesn’t work well for me if I’m not too sure about what I really want to say, or if I don’t have enough to say. It makes me anxious and when I’m in that state – whether it’s writing a scene for my book where I can’t quite visualise it, or writing copy at work – I write pure gobbledegook, the ramblings of an insane woman.
At work, especially, it feels like stage fright/performance anxiety because someone could ask to see my draft at any time, so I feel under pressure to produce something great first go.
When I feel self-conscious like that, my internal critic goes on over-drive and I either look for a displacement activity to put off the writing or force myself to write just anything in a desperate rush. Either way it’s not good. Avoiding it makes the pressure greater the closer the deadline comes and writing in an insane panic only produces insane panicky writing – which afterwards I can barely manage to edit out into bland, dull corporate-speak.
My two main hurdles are anxiety and procrastination. I need a process to ease myself into writing so that I stay relaxed and in control. Two options are to:
- Make it into a game
- Start with something purely mechanical so that I trick myself into starting to write without really noticing it.
Something else that helps me to write is a voice in my head. Which makes it sound like I really am insane, but what I mean is a voice that helps me to flow and pick the sound of what I want to say. I found the short story that I was writing hard going until I changed it to a first-person narrative and given the protagonist a slight northern accent (in my mind). It was like she was talking and I was just writing down what she said.
- So that’s number three: find a voice.
And the final requirement that I can think of now, is something that will help me to get back into what I’m doing quickly. I get lots of distractions especially at work where I’ll be going along fine when I’ll get a phone call and then when I get back to my writing, suddenly my inner critic has had time to wake up and I’m back to feeling anxious.
So – tomorrow to work on my strategy!