Loving your inner editor, or why too much freewriting might screw you up

19 02 2013

Everyone seems to love freewriting. Julia Cameron, with her morning pages, even Sarah Selecky in her

Story is a state of mind

online course (which I’ve just started). Everyone in writing classes and conferences and lectures and such tell we learning writers to just write and write and write, and never mind the level of crap that spills from our pens.
The aim is good – get the writer over the hump of feeling ridiculous or frozen into immobility.
I’ve got a million journals filled up with my scrawling, and then there’s this blog thing. I love writing down vignettes of scenes at the coffee shop, doodling writings with the starter of “I remember”, digging in my head to clarify my thinking, sort out my loose threads, play with the colours of the windmills of my mind.
I seek comfy pens that can skim across the page without slowing my thoughts. I choose journals carefully so the paper has just the right give.
Have I published a lot of stories, novels, articles?
Nope. I’m having too much fun freewriting with my writing time. It’s easy. It doesn’t need a plot, well-drawn characters, believability. I can tell myself I am a writer simply because I am writing, right? It’s not about having people read my writings, is it?
I would actually argue that most freewriting is really another source of procrastination. Sure, if you can’t get going, do a bit here and there. Explore a thought while you warm up your creative mind.
But Cameron’s 3 pages daily risks exhausting that creative spark on what really often ends up being pages of dreck.
Sure, sometimes there’s something to mine from the pages. Sometimes an idea will pop up that is worth pursuing. Not often, though.
What needs to happen is the hard work of writing a coherent story, rewriting it, and finding it a home. Clutch your inner editors in an embrace and welcome them then – they are just what you need.
Because writing is meant to be good. It’s meant to mean something. It is meant to be shared.

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3 responses

20 02 2013
Ally Bean

I would actually argue that most freewriting is really another source of procrastination.

I agree. I was all about my three pages when Cameron’s book first came out. I was convinced that something great would come from these magical pages. But then after a couple of years, I realized I had nada. Just more notebooks to lug around with me when I moved.

So I started a public blog where what I said had to have some structure and some accountability. For me, blogging has improved my writing and my desire to write more than those pages. But then, perhaps I’m too pragmatic at heart…

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21 02 2013
Caro

Hi DA. Glad to hear you are taking a course. As a writer and teacher of writing, I too say just put the words on the page. But the words I talk about are words building your novel (I teach Writing the Novel, which is what I write). So it’s not just any old writing. I have never been a fan of just writing, doing ‘pages’ or such, but write that scene you’ve been thinking about. Just write it! And after a while, when you have a whole lit of these scenes, you have something to edit, which is where the real writing begins!

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21 02 2013
dorothyanneb

So true. I agree it’s important to get the words down, get past that initial hesitation. I love Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die for this – you set a word count and if you lose track or stop, it makes awful noises at you. So you are forcing your brain to work and not be distracted. THEN comes the editing, and you’re right, that’s where the meat is.

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