Writing Craft: Seize Your Creativity!
Unlocking your powers of creativity requires less inspiration and more perspiration.
Everyone who writes has a story, a reason they write. Something that drives them to put words on a page. Everyone has a list. That list of hot writing tips which promise you the capacity to be a better writer if you can embrace the Hero’s Journey or Brainstorming, the Mega Way, Underwater Writing, or Writing Through your Pain.
All of these list of resources are good but what they lack is individuality. They aren’t tailored to where you are currently in your goal to becoming a writer of quality. Many of these courses act as if you are already a writer being paid for your efforts and don’t have anything else to do, an environment already tailored to your writing needs and a family that respects your need to be able to write.
These lists don’t address having to work, having to squeeze a novel between waking at five, driving two hours to work, taking kids to soccer practice, doing homework after work, getting the kids ready for school and keeping the romance alive in your relationship, assuming you even get to have one.
If you’re not independently wealthy, all of these things and more are part of your reality. How in the hell are you supposed to write when you are already trying to figure out how to get eight hours of sleep in your already crowded life?
You are going to ritualize the process, learn to release the flow state. This is the subconscious state where your mind is liberated from the effort of writing and instead is immersed within it. You will learn not to force the writing but to open yourself up to it.
Here’s how we create the ritual to enter the flow state:
- Don’t try to write until everything in your house is quiet or distraction-free. Be that at the end of the day or an hour earlier than your household wakes up. Pick that time and then write at that time for an hour. Just an hour. Nothing more. Trust me. It can be enough.
- When you sit down to write, you have already spent either: the entire day, whenever you weren't engaging in anything more pressing, considering your next SCENE in your work or the night before you went to sleep. So you went to sleep with this on your mind allowing your subconscious mind time to play with the scene.
- You are writing a scene. Not the next arc. Not the next chapter. Just the next scene. Visualize it. Play with the dialog and motivations of the characters. Play with it in your head and have your participants take their roles in your mental sandbox.
- Try to take a single important thing away from the scene you are going to write. Make one important thing happen that propels the story forward.
- Write only for one hour. Use your favorite music, white noise, sound generator software (like http://www.noisli.com/) to create random noises which help your creativity fire off better. If you work better with silence use that, try not to turn on any media which will have commercial breaks. The only voices you want in your head are your own.
- If time is an issue, reduce the time you spend in activities which do not return a creative result. No television, no televised sporting events, no movies, no distractions, no social media, no Facebook , no Twitter — no video games, and no smartphones. These things sap your creativity by distracting you and unfocusing your mental energies. If they are things you enjoy, you need to set time aside AFTER a period of writing, two weeks or so, then reward yourself with your distraction of choice until you are ready to buckle down again.
- You may think an hour isn't enough time. Especially when you first start these exercises. And it won’t be in the beginning but here is the trick to make this work: YOU ARE GOING TO DO THIS EVERY DAY. YOU WILL NOT SKIP A DAY. YOU WILL NOT TAKE A DAY OFF EXCEPT FOR SUNDAY. Or whatever day is best for you to recover your creative energy.
Why? Why these rigid steps? We are trying to introduce what is called a flow state. Sitting down consistently, at the same time, with the same music, without distractions, and writing about a thing you have already been thinking about will get you into the habit of writing.
Writing, to be effective must become a habit, the same way a tennis master learns the proper stroke to get the ball across the net every time, you must develop the habit of putting words on the page, every time, nonstop until what you have mentally prepared is done or your flow state ends naturally.
Because once your writing is a habit, you will eventually produce something, Every time. It will not always be Shakespeare. That’s not the point. The point is to put yourself in the position of creating, with purpose. Do this long enough and you will begin to improve.
In case you’re wondering, an hour is sufficient to produce 750–2000 words, depending on your practice achieving the flow state. My flow state can produce 1500–3000 words in an hour. I write for only two hours a day. 1500 words is the equivalent of 6 pages a day. If you can maintain that pace for three months, you have a novel.
In the beginning, you will not be able to maintain that pace. You will be lucky to make 500-750 words. But that is your target number. Create a scene or short story that is at least 750 words long, every day, except Sunday, and all in under 1 hour.
Repeat after me: This is a reachable goal. I can do this.
Some days, what you will write will be total shite (the British expression, not the Japanese word). So what. This is not about being awesome. This is about building the consistency and the discipline to write every day. Once you get the ritual down, you will spend more time writing and less time looking at a blank page because you will sit down HAVING ALREADY THOUGHT ABOUT YOUR SCENE ALL DAY OR ALL NIGHT. You will be harnessing the power of your subconscious mind which is where the bulk of your brain’s capacity lies.
Eventually, you will be able to extend your scenes into chapters. You will reach the flow state easier and you will be able to maintain it longer. And correspondingly you will have to consider your chapters before you sit down to write. It’s the same process as the scenes, just longer and thus you may have to use your lunch time to think about your story, or snatch a few minutes of your break to smooth out an idea.
You are forbidden to edit yourself while you write. No corrections, beyond spelling (assuming you have a spelling checker). You must write and let the writing flow forth without internal censor, without consideration for any creative modification other than getting it on the page.
Why? Shouldn’t I be trying to get the best work on the page? In theory, but in practice, until you can reach the flow state and hold it, this is to prevent your internal editor from getting in your way and questioning the process. If you are inclined to self-edit, you can disrupt the flow state and your writing goes undone.
This means your internal editor gets to sit and wait until the chapter is done before having a single thing to say. In an ideal world, your internal editor might have to wait a few chapters until the range of ideas you were trying to put out are done.
Now if you find you cannot work through your scenes, you may need a bit more structure and for that you may need to create an outline (I recommend this, for some people they cannot write without one). My preferred outline method is called the Snowflake Method (http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/.../snowflake-method/), but any outline process you prefer can work. A blog called InkOutLoud has some recommendations for different kinds of outlining you might find helpful.
The only caveat is you cannot use it as a crutch to prevent you from doing your day’s writing. If your outline isn’t done, then you are to wing it. Let inspiration drive you. Sometimes, you create something completely unexpected. And that can make the work feel fresher and more vibrant because it came from your inner creativity.
None of this, of course, at the end of your novellete, novella, or novel, prevents you from editing your work, finding an editor/proofreader and beta readers to tell you how you did. But if you do this faithfully, it will make you a consistent writer and you can do your writing in 1–2 hours a day and still able to put out at least one novel per year, two if you can get two hours a day.
Nothing stops you from writing more, by the way. If you find yourself able to achieve “flow,” feel free to write for as long as the story can be told. When you feel yourself stumble, stop and rest.
Okay, if you’ve read this far, you want to know something about me: My son is autistic and I am his primary caretaker. I have a wife and I have two part-time jobs which allow me to structure my day so I can be with him when he needs support.
So I understand what it means to be challenged by children and work. I created my method of writing to deal with that process and using the 750 word a day method (3 pages a day) I have written in five years, 200 short stories, 1200 articles, and 3 collections of short stories and 2 novellas. I can, when I am properly fed and rested able to enter “the flow state” and maintain it for two hours or more.
One more thing. Track your progress. I use 750words.com to write in and keep track of my writing. It used to be free, but now it costs about 5 bucks a month. It is totally worth it to have a place to track your writing (it is a distraction free writing space) and keep you honest about your performance. It will track your words, your time to complete 750 words and how long you have taken to write that evening.
At the end of the year, I do an analysis of my writing to help me see where I spent my time and how successful I was in meeting my goals. Monitoring your success over time is the best way to see the results of your writing efforts. Here is a sample of my annual writing survey:
The greatest ability you can have as a writer is persistence. Discipline, focus and talent are also nice but persistence ensures you keep striving when you’re tired. You persist. When your kids have worn you down. You persist. When life has just kicked you in the teeth. You persist. (You get some dental work done, and you get right back at it.)
Writing is difficult, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It is just like any other job you engage in. Your brain will use 30 percent of the calories you consume in a day, so if you’re writing, your brain is earning those calories, I assure you.
You don’t need to have lots of time to write. You need to make the most of the time you write in. Please feel free to chat me up for clarification of any of my tools, methods or ideas.
At your service,
Thaddeus Howze Atreides
Seize Your Creative Power! © Thaddeus Howze 2015, All Rights Reserved
Thaddeus Howze is a California-based technologist and author who has worked with computer technology since the 1980's doing graphic design, computer science, programming, network administration and IT leadership.
His non-fiction work has appeared in numerous magazines: Black Enterprise, the Good Men Project, Examiner.com, and Astronaut.com. He maintains a diverse collection of non-fiction at his blog, A Matter of Scale. He is a contributor at The Enemy, a nonfiction literary publication out of Los Angeles.
He is now a moderator and contributor to the Scifi.Stackexchange.com with over a thousand articles in a three year period. He is now an author and contributor at Scifiideas.com. His science fiction and fantasy has appeared in blogs such as Medium.com, the Magill Review, ScifiIdeas.com, and the Au Courant Press Journal. He has a wide collection of his work on his website, Hub City Blues. His recently published works can be found here. He also maintains a wide collection of his writing and editing work on Medium.com.
His speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies: Awesome Allshorts: Last Days and Lost Ways (Australia, 2014), The Future is Short (2014), Visions of Leaving Earth (2014), Mothership: Tales of Afrofuturism and Beyond (2014), Genesis Science Fiction (2013), Scraps (2012), and Possibilities (2012).
He has written two books: a collection called Hayward’s Reach (2011) and an e-book novella called Broken Glass (2013). In 2015 he will be releasing Visiting Hours and A Millennium of Madness, two collections of short stories.
If you have enjoyed this publication or any of the other writing he does, consider becoming a Patron. For what you spend on one cup of coffee per month, you can assist him in creating new stories, new graphics, new articles and new novels. “Creating the new takes a little support.” — http://patreon.com/ebonstorm.