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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Flashwrite #2: Loosen Up

You can see some photos of writers riffing off my picture collection here and here. Links to the pictures I flashed: Harry Clarke, “The Skylark,” and Albrecht Durer’s self portrait. If anyone’s interested in seeing more of my collection so that you can add to yours, let me know and I’ll be happy to make scans.

(Whatever devotional scene is on my old French postcard, it wouldn’t be called a “pattern day.” Turns out that’s uniquely Irish.)

* * *

So you’ve made a beginning (which is awesome!)

Literally, if you want to write, A writer is one who writes. I am a writer–you’ve done it, right? Get past that whole thing about not being a writer. If you write, you’re a writer, the end.

So I want to talk about free writing, which I think is an excellent tool for loosening up. I also want to talk a little bit about surrounding yourself with things, words and images that inspire you. But first I want talk about when to be tough on yourself and when to go easy. I think that the time to be tough on yourself is the time when you glue your butt to the chair. That is the time to be tough on yourself. Once you’re in the chair, go easy. Don’t judge. Relax. Have fun. This is all about fun. You wouldn’t do it otherwise. I wouldn’t do it otherwise. (That’s why I think I have the best job in the world, because I can build worlds, write about them, and a publisher pays me (which is pretty amazing, right?), and after that the book comes out and lots of people read it and get to live inside that world for 300 or so pages, and hopefully they enjoy it as much as I did writing it.) So cultivate that feeling of joy every time you sit down.

When it comes to free writing, the only rule that I impose on myself is–we’ll just say ten minutes. So I use my cellphone, I use the countdown timer for ten minutes, and I just go. In the past, when I’ve done workshops, I will lay out art postcards–anything that I’ve found inspiring, I figure other people will find inspiring as well. For instance, this is a very old postcard from France (but I picked it up in Lima, I think). So that’s pretty cool. It looks like it’s some sort of a pattern day, y’know, Roman Catholic something. I also use family photographs, pictures of gorgeous stained glass (that’s Harry Clarke), this is just a cool scene in Scotland (Inverness). I’ve got art postcards–this is a really cool Hungarian painting, this is Albrecht Durer, who is one of my favorites. So I lay all of that out on a table and let people pick the image that speaks to them most, and then they’ll use that for their free write. You can do this for yourself. Start collecting images that speak to you somehow, however they speak to you. Whenever you’re in a museum, pick up a few of these postcards that strike your fancy, or find stuff online to print out, and collect it, keep it in a folder, so that when you sit down for your writing practice you’ve got this little trove to draw from.

A little bit more about free writing, whether or not you use an image to play off of: ten minutes, even five minutes. Five, ten, fifteen, twenty minutes, however long you want to take with it, and make it continuous. Do not stop, do not judge. Don’t even cross your Ts and dot your Is. Don’t even worry about that. Just keep going. It’s going to be nonsense in the beginning. It could be complete garbage–it probably will be complete garbage, and that’s totally fine. The point is to get your pen moving. It is a little like running a rusty faucet, because eventually the water comes out clear, and some really surprising and marvelous stuff happens–comes out, and eventually when you start writing essays and stories, whatever is in your heart, whatever you want to write, you can look back on these free writes and you can pull the gems out. Here, even here, I’ve got bits. This is just nonsense, I mean, it’s literally gobbledy gobbledy wibbledy wobbledy, wobbledy gobbledy. That’s literally what I wrote, and I’m not judging it, because you know what? I might use it someday. You never know–I might write a children’s book. Enjoy it, see what comes out, have fun with it.

That is what I’d like you to do for this time. Take out your journal, set an alarm–I think it’s good to keep to a set amount of time, because I don’t want you to get discouraged. You’re more likely to press on with it if you know, okay, ten minutes, I’ve set the ten minutes for myself, I’ve made this time for myself. So I think it is important to set a timeframe around it. So that is your “homework”: do a free write. I suggest ten minutes, a lot of cool stuff can come out in ten minutes, once the gobbledy gobbledy wibbledy wobbledy is out of the way.

I hope you enjoy that, and thanks for watching!

* * *
Flashwrite #1: Make a Beginning.

Next episodes:

Flashwrite #3: Time and Space.

Flashwrite #4: So Long, Inner Critic.

(All Flashwrite episodes here.)

1 Comment to Flashwrite #2: Loosen Up

  1. crazyliberalkate's Gravatar crazyliberalkate
    November 5, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    Your excitement is contagious!
    Maybe this is a stupid questions, but when you say “free write,” is that the same as stream of consciousness?

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.