Monday, July 8, 2024

Write Before You Look

Are you stuck on a writing project? Or is there something you'd love to write, but you can't get up the nerve to start? In over 25 years of writing, I've found that writing happens on the page. Just start writing. You can't do anything until you begin.

Other writers make the same point. In his book *Immediate Fiction, A Complete Writing Course*, author Jerry Cleaver recommends that when you're writing, "you leap first and look later". Cleaver believes that when you're creating, you should let your imagination do the heavy lifting. Daydream. Pretend. Let your imagination lead you where it wants to go. You will write more, and reach places you can’t get to in any other way.

Writing, like any creative endeavor, requires that we use both sides of our brain, the left and the right. Our left brain is the dominant partner, and while we're awake, our left brain is active. This means that when we think: "No way, I could never write a book" or "I could never write a screenplay" we're taking the word of our left brain.

The creative impulse came from our creative right brain, but our left brain, which deals in realities, immediately said: "Whoa!

No, you've no evidence for that. Couldn’t do that --- you've never done it before. Wouldn’t work. Silly idea."

Take a moment. Think. How often have you taken the word of your left brain? Decide today, that whenever you get a creative impulse, the very impulse which gave you that idea also knows how to make it work, so all you have to do is put your body in the place where that can happen. The creative impulse comes to all creatives, so if you get an impulse to take a photograph, or paint, or cook, or sew a scarf --- follow through. For writers, the place to follow through is with a pen in hand, or in front of a computer screen.

Here's a process to use to become familiar with writing before you look. Try it. It will feel unfamiliar at first, and you'll worry about whether you're doing it "right". Be assured that as long as your body is relaxed, your left brain is (more or less) out of the way, and you're freeing your creative right brain.

=> The Write Before You Look Process

==> One: Clear your mind

From the moment you wake up in the morning, your left brain is in charge. This side of your brain does a great job of getting you where you need to be, and helps you to fit into society, but it's not creative.

To allow your right brain's creative impulses to get your attention, you need to quiet your left brain. Any repetitive task will do this. Knitting and needlework are good. So are walking and driving, and taking a shower. Listening to classical music also works.

You can't always be moving around, so it's best to learn a sit- down process. The easiest way to clear your mind is to progressively relax every part of your body. If you've ever done any stress-reduction courses, you'll know that in progressive relaxation you focus on your body from your toes to the top of your head, and gently relax all your muscles. Just take each part of your body in turn, and tell each set of muscles to relax.

When you first learn this process, it can take around ten minutes to become completely calm and relaxed. After a few weeks, you'll be able to do it in less than a minute. You can speed up the process by mentally saying "relax" to each part of your body. In time, you'll become as limp as cooked spaghetti whenever you say the magic word to yourself.

==> Two: Write down your creative impulses

When you're completely relaxed, gently focus on your breathing. You'll find that your breaths gradually deepen more and more, and that they slow right down. This is the effect you want.

When your breathing has slowed, keep focusing on your breathing, but also think about what creative work you'd like to do. What would you like to write, if you could?

Just daydream for five minutes. If a creative idea comes to you, write it down, then drift back into your daydream.

You may not get any creative ideas while you're daydreaming. They may come later as you're doing something else. This is fine. Your right brain doesn’t "think" in language. It uses feelings and emotions to communicate. Your left brain translates these right-brain impulses into words. When you first start to actively try to get creative ideas, the communication between the two sides of your brain is slow. It will become more rapid the more you practice.

==> Three: Follow through on an impulse immediately if you can

Got a creative idea? Great.

If you can, follow through on it immediately. If you can’t, write down enough of the idea so that you can recall it easily later in

the day. Vital: also write down any images which are floating through your mind. What mental pictures do you see? These are additional parts of the creative impulse that your left brain hasn't yet translated into words. Capture them now by writing them down.

Some writers find that they can immediately write an entire 2000 word article, or a chapter of a book after they clear their mind.

This process is very powerful.

==> Four: Drop judgments --- enjoy making a mess

You've followed through, and you're writing. However, it’s messy.

It doesn’t completely make sense.

Excellent!! This is exactly what you want. It's your guarantee that the idea you're developing is original. All creation starts with a mess.

Work on the project again tomorrow. Keep working. Chances are that you're making a creative breakthrough. Remember it's your left brain that's making these early judgments. You can safely ignore them.

==> Five: Never assume that you "know" anything

You've cleared your mind, and when you read through your creative ideas later you get scared to death. You can't do this. You can't write a complete book, or submit your article proposal to Redbook. And you surely can’t dig that manuscript out of your bottom drawer and whip it in shape to send to a publisher.

Of course you can. Remember, your left brain is NOT creative.

Clearing your mind so that you can let your creative right brain work will convince you that you DO have lots of creative ideas.

Unfortunately, your left brain doesn’t trust them. That's OK. Remember that the part of your brain that's belittling all your ideas is your left brain.

Ignore it. Trust your creative impulses and follow through. Clear your mind first, to muffle your left brain. Then let your right brain do the creative work.

Write before you look. That's the entire process. Try it. You'll amaze yourself.

Remember: the creative impulse that gave you the idea, also knows how to carry out the idea. So if you've got an impulse to write a book, write it. You already have everything you need to do it.

© Angela Booth

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