The Rhythm of Writing

Here is a trick I use to write better and more naturally. It is called "timed writing" and it has been easy and effective for me. This post will briefly describe how it works.

First, pick a song to listen to while doing the exercise. Then I get a piece of paper and a pen. When the song starts, begin writing. Don’t type or use a computer. Don’t pause, don’t stop. Don’t think. Don’t correct your spelling or grammar. Just write. If you can’t think of anything else to write write whatever you say to yourself; even if it is "what should I say here?" But, don’t let the pen stop writing until the song stops.

Second, use another song to review what you wrote. When I do this step, I cross-out things I didn’t like. I make notes, annotations, draw lines connecting one paragraph to another, insert comments or write trigger words. Sometimes I outline a different idea flow. But I don’t stop until the song stops. This is a great time to check the intention and attitude of the piece. Sometimes I look at a paragraph and ask myself "what is this supposed to say?" And I write the answer. It is often a great headline, lead-in, or summary. When the song is over, I often take a break to clear my head.

The next step looks similar to the first. Put on a song, and re-write the whole thing … from the beginning … with the new structure, comments and whatever else comes out in the process. By this step, the piece is usually dramatically better than it was the first time. However, a few more changes often happen when I re-enter the piece into the computer.

Handwriting seems to access different parts of the brain and creative process than typing does.  Somehow the combination works for me.  Try this and let me know what you think.

One Comment
  1. I tend to write and edit simultaneously. I haven’t tried writing in longhand in decades but I’m afraid I’d find it frustrating. Although, who knows? Maybe it would introduce a bit more discipline into my writing. If I give it a try, I’ll definitely report back with results.

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