Saturday, December 15, 2012

Writing Diary: Automatic Writing

Today I started out working with a technique Lawrence Block calls automatic writing*. (Write for Your Life, Lawrence Block) It's also called fast writing or free writing. Rachel Ballon calls it the Fast Flow Writing Method. (The Writer's Portable Therapist: 25 Sessions to a Creativity Cure, Rachel Ballon, Ph. D.)

This is what it is: you sit down at your keyboard and type fast. You don't stop to make corrections. You don't censor yourself. You don't rewrite anything. You just keep moving forward. If all you can think of writing is 'this is stupid, I can't do this', that's what you type--- right in the middle of something if you have to.

The point is to keep the words flowing. Most people find that at some point they are going full speed ahead with the best and most authentic writing of their lives.

When I tried it today I followed the specific instructions in Rachel Ballon's book, which call for some relaxation techniques beforehand, and also ask you to write everything in first person and present tense to put 'you' into your writing.

I did that. I was amazed at the spelling errors and typos I made. I had no clue I was doing that so often. One result--- after the session I downloaded a typing-teaching software to work on my accuracy.

I decided to work on a writing project--- I picked an older one I'd been thinking about recently. I made up a new YWriter file which I entitled 'current writing projects'. (What I intend to do is to start projects here. When they grow to a certain word count and look like they are going toward completion, I'll take them off into a new YWriter file. While in this file, each novel or story will be a chapter and the different parts of it are going to be scene files.)

Rachel Ballon recommends doing automatic writing for 20 minutes. I did 3 sessions of 20 minutes, with 10 minute breaks in between.

My results: I got more words than I usually do in 3 sessions of 30 minutes. The first scene featured one character (as yet unnamed) and I wrote her story in the first person. The second scene had a different character, but following the instructions I wrote him also in first person.

In spite of the massive number of typos it went well, it was very strong writing. I will have to go back through it to make corrections of the spelling, change to third person narration, and give characters their proper names. But considering how much work I got done in my writing time, I don't mind having to do that.

Having tried automatic writing, I think I will be doing it for my major writing work this month. Even though I didn't feel like I was really writing in the zone, in the flow, passionately and intuitively, it was a lot closer to that kind of writing experience than I am used to. Perhaps tomorrow will be better.

Should you try automatic writing? It might be a useful exercise, especially if your writing feels inhibited or dull at times. Or if you just have a hard time making your word count goal. If you do try it, you might come back to this blog and drop me a comment, tell me how it went.

* automatic writing--- this is also a name for an occult/spiritualist technique, also called channeling, which is sort of like a Ouija board using pen and paper (or, these days, keyboard). Most people believe that the entities that write the messages in automatic writing are just something from the writer's subconscious, and not real ghosts or demons or anything. Back when I was a Pagan, I did the occulty kind of automatic writing and it seemed like subconscious stuff to me. But the automatic writing that is the subject of this blog post is not similar to the occulty kind in any way--- it's you at work and you are allowed to know it's you.

1 comment:

Stanley Loper said...

That's pretty close to the method I and several well-known authors use, though they do some research beforehand for the idea they have in mind for a story, then they just sit down and let the story tell itself.

Then then rewrite and edit. It's really almost zen. That's how I write as well.

There is a movie, I can't remember the name offhand about a young man who wants to write and ends up befriending a Nobel laureate. The man pulls an early piece of writing out of his file of stories he'd published and sits the young man down in front of the typewriter and tells him to copy the first paragraph and simply keep on writing from there. That scene impressed me and we used to have that movie for me to watch again until some of our DVDs were stolen. But I've never forgotten it.

I wrote on the subject in mt blog, Stan's Corner, which I've re-tasked to be about writing.

Good luck!

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