Wednesday, August 11, 2010

This is Why I Never Bake

I was struggling through writing a post for my business blog the other day and ended up learning an important rule about how to improve my process, my writing, and definitely my productivity.  Although I'm going to talk about writing specifically, I think this rule is applicable to any creative process.  It won't force you to make significant changes to the way you work.  It won't take a lot of extra time.  It won't leave you feeling frustrated.  Best of all, it's super easy, even natural.

Am I starting to sound like an infomercial?  I feel like it...

Do you frequently re-read the last sentence you wrote and pull out your hair as you bemoan your inadequacies as a writer?

Yes, I realize she's wearing pantyhose on her head.
That doesn't make any sense.  I don't care.

Do you often devolve into tears because you can't think of the exact perfect synonym?
Please take this from me-
I don't deserve it if I can't come up
with another word for "picturesque."

Do you suffer from such intense writer's block that you fantasize about devouring your computer in a fit of rage?
Not, that's not me.  I use a MacBook!

Infomercial aside, here's the rule:

Don't edit while you write.  (Obviously, I haven't edited this at all.  Otherwise I probably wouldn't have posted it.)

Or, if you prefer: Don't critique your work while you're still in the process of creating it.  You can easily get so distracted fixing it up as you go that you don't get anywhere.  You're too "close to the project," as they say in the corporate world.  Lately, I've been trying something new: focusing on just getting my thoughts down on paper (or keyboard, whatever), jumbled and nonsensical as they may sometimes be.  Then, I let it rest.  Often overnight.  I come back to it later and re-read it and commence with the hair-pulling and sobbing if necessary.

Good writing is like baking bread (not that I would know... I've never baked bread in my life, this is based on baking here-say and conjecture).  You mix all the ingredients together and let it rise for a while.  Then you come back to it and... well, maybe you made crappy bread, and it's too late now.  But that's why writing is better than baking, because you can take stuff out if it doesn't taste good.  But now I'm mixing metaphors.

I promise you, creative types, that you'll start producing better work if you let it occur naturally, organically, in it's raw form, and come back to it after you've let your right brain rest a little.