Friday, July 27, 2007

the only way to write is to write

All writers agree: the only way to write is to sit down and do it. Planning to write, wanting to write, and waiting for inspiration are all interesting processes. They are not writing. Writing is writing.

Writing does not require planning or inspiration. Writing requires moving your pen across the page or your fingers over the keyboard. Thousands of words run through your mind almost without stopping (your internal voice never needs to catch its breath). If you decide what to write before you write, you get tied up in tracking intangible thoughts (the ones jostling for position inside your mind) instead of in writing.

The way to write is to write. Put pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard and look at what you are thinking as it appears before you. It is rarely precisely what you would have predicted.There are always more words available to you than you can capture on the page. The one resource you need to write is available to you in abundance.

It's available in such abundance that you will be free to throw much of it away once you have written. Just as many thoughts move through our awareness without leaving much trace, words written can be deleted, crossed out or transformed. Writing something shows you in visible form the trace of the thought that produced it: it does not make that thought true or useful. You make one set of choices in deciding what to write and you can make a second set of choices about what to keep.

Don't publish (by which I mean allow anyone to read!) your first draft. That's like offering to let someone wander around inside your mind, free to open the cupboards and poke in the corners. You are normally the only one who needs to see first-draft writing before it has the critical approval of the reviewer in you - that internal editor who evaluates what you are thinking and decides which thoughts to tie into other experiences, and which thoughts should float free, drifting out of awareness and memory.

Accept that writing always requires editing (what you are reading was written rapidly, but it is not a first draft). Know that you can change whatever you write - it belongs to you. Then open the connection between your mind and your fingers and write.

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