If you’ve been following my recent posts, you’ll know how strongly I recommend thinking of writing as a process. If you want to be more fluent as a writer, this perspective is a must. Today’s topic illustrates why.
Have you ever sat down to start a piece of writing and felt paralysed by the activity in your brain? I get this a lot. It feels as though I’m (figuratively speaking) pressing on a brake and accelerator at the same time, resulting in the clamping tight of my brainal sphincter (also figuratively speaking, just in case your knowledge of neurophysiology happens to be rusty).
But I think this frankly nasty metaphor contains some literal truth. Whenever you start to write, you’re marshalling two directly opposing forces: creativity and criticism. As quickly as your creative brain can think of words, your critical brain insists, “Halt! This is flawed.”
No wonder you’re clamping. Whenever you feel this way, try and have a brain dump. Get yourself a timer (I recommend one that’s made in a frivolous shape: a large red tomato, for instance) and set it for a fairly short period of time, like five minutes. Until the timer pings, write down every thought currently crowding your mind.
You’ll end up with a right old mess. However sceptical you are about the value of what you’ve just expelled onto paper, keep it. Sometimes you’ll be able to retrieve good writing and ideas from the dung heap, and sometimes it just serves as an unblocker.
But there’s a greater moral to this story, dear writer: while you’re trying to generate words, send your inner editor on holiday. Concentrating on the task of allowing writing—however imperfect—to be put on paper will help you keep your brainal sphincter nice and loose. If you do nothing else as the result of reading this blog, please start to mentally differentiate your writing process into separate creation and correction phases.
Otherwise you might end up with brain piles from all the straining. You have been warned.
Lynn is the founder and quality-maven-in-chief of Lexis Writing, a collective of expert writers creating high quality content and copy for businesses in the UK and beyond.