Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Silencing the Watcher so that the Writer can WRITE

Silencing the Watcher so that the Writer can WRITE

You may be familiar with this routine:

You write a line. You read it. You change a word. You read it. You change another word. You add a comma. You delete the comma. You add the comma.

You write a line. You read it. You change a word. You change it back. You visit thesaurus.com and find a different word. You read it. You change another word.

You write a line. You read it. You change a word...
This is known as the most painful possible way to write. Unfortunately, it's the only way a lot of beginner - and some veteran - writers seem to be able to do it.

As Geoff Williams says on the Songwriting & Beyond blog, "The worse 'creativity killer' is the analytical part of your mind. This is the part that judges everything you do. If you try and judge something AS you are creating it, the creative part of your mind 'shuts down.'"

I think I was a junior in high school when I first learned of this phenomenon. My English teacher recommended a book about the "Watcher" and the "Writer" - the dual roles we play whenever we sit down to string letters into words into writing that makes sense. If you've become accustomed to letting the Watcher have free reign while you write, it may take some reconditioning to break that habit and silence the buttinsky until it's time for them to do their work - during the editing process.

As a recent post on Copyblogger states, you've got to put the writing first:
So sit down and write. That’s the key. Don’t go back and edit. Don’t sit there and contemplate what you’ll say next. The more you can just write or type your thoughts out as they come to you, the easier the whole project will be. Don’t allow yourself to rethink what you wrote at this point. Don’t stop to go back and make changes yet. Just write it until it’s finished.
My biggest personal challenge is the struggle for precisely the right word. Having lost more than one train of thought on this red herring, however, I've learned to write the closest imperfect word and circle it, highlight it, change the font, or just leave a blank (________) so that I can keep on writing. I can always come back later and find the proper word ... but I can't always call back the creative thoughts that flew out the window while I was needlessly exercising MS Word's thesaurus function.

The thing to remember is that you're changing a habit, so this new behavior is probably going to take some time to develop. And as with developing most new behaviors, the first step toward success is noticing when you're doing the thing you want to change. Although our goal may be effortless, relaxed writing, for the next little while, you'll want to watch for your Watcher and catch him/her in the act. As soon as you notice yourself editing, STOP. Make a note if you need to. And go back to writing.

It may not be easy, but soon this new writing process will become the norm for you, and you'll wonder how you ever let the Watcher have so much control. Only when you've finished with the writing part (blog post, article, chapter, poem) is it the Watcher's time to shine.
Fluency is when self-editing happens so quickly that we can’t see it. ~Copyblogger

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