Vomit It on the Page
“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”
— Allen Ginsberg
The blank page can be scary. Often, we sit in front of a blank screen and don’t know what to type. We sit there and ponder how to start and how to write the best first sentence. Some people call this writer’s block, while others call it fear.
Whatever it is and whatever you want to call it, it can be crippling. Writers have many phobias which really go back to the art of the start.
My solution is to get it out as fast as possible. I like to vomit it on the page.
Emit it from your brain as fast as your fingers can type. Don’t re-read and don’t correct. Don’t revisit and don’t reconfigure. Please don’t ever rewrite as you go! It might almost end up being stream of consciousness, but it should not be a dribble.
Get it out — FAST!!!
Don’t even be concerned about the little red lines that go underneath the words that you didn’t type or spell right. Get it out of your mind. This works great with most writing tasks. To borrow from Anne Lamott, this is called the Really Stupid Draft. She just uses another word for the S.
Then when you are finished with that horrible draft, look at it again and take these steps to correct and fix it.
- Check the outline — Did you stick to it? To be contrary to the topic of this article, I am a big proponent of planning. If you had a writing plan or an outline, did you stick to your outline? Where did you stray?
- Fix the red lines — obviously the little steps are important to take. Re-Read (out loud) and make sure that the things that you wrote are actually real sentences and change the red lines to words that actually exist.
- Fix the grammar — Do you have comma splices, run ons, sentence fragments, parallel structure, and subject verb agreement? Start with these five easily missed grammatical errors and you work will become clearer to the trained and untrained reader.
- Is the Big Idea there? Did you get your point across? Did you have evidence for your reasoning? Did you have an organized paragraph with a topic sentence and support that followed? Do your paragraphs lend to the organization in your ideas?
- Kill Your Darlings — William Faulkner is most attributed to this quote, but sometimes you have to take out some of the best lines or best parts because they just don’t fit. This is hard, but maybe you can save a note called “My Darlings” and use them elsewhere. it’s better not to force words, quotes, or ideas where they don’t fit.
- Be honest, but maybe not raw — Sometimes when you write something, it may have felt right at the time, but you may want to reconsider where it came from. It is always important to be honest, but sometimes, the raw emotion of it, may get you into trouble down the line. Sometimes, you need to hold back even though it sounded good in the moment.
- Add words or change them around — this is the fun part of writing. You can write about “red car” in your piece, but that literally gives us no idea of what the car looks like or what kind of car it is. A maroon Prius is totally different than a pink Corvette, which is totally different than a cherry red 1967 convertible Ford Mustang. They all carry different connotations and resemble different parts of our society. Sometimes it is even fun to play with the stereotypes that come with each of those.
- Revise your Nouns and Verbs — this goes along with the previous rewriting rule above. It is an easy place to start and when you add in more specificity, you will make your work more vivid and entertaining.
Writing is fun, but the first step is to just get it out as fast as possible, so that that you can go back and re-work some of the things that didn’t make sense. Most people say that writing is not finished, but that it is done. If you string words together day after day, it becomes less of a chore and more of a fun challenge.
It gets easier too.
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