Writing with Lassie

Writing your first draft is going to be easier than falling down a well.  In fact, you want to be in a well.  That is our analogy for your own private writing place.

There’s a cool trick to help you get it done.   And you can use this tactic no matter what you’re writing.

Do keep in mind, though, that my advice is geared toward creative writing because that’s where I’ve failed with consistency since 1992.  If you are a technical writer, or writing a users’ manual for the latest widget-sprocket-doohickie, the rules and how-to’s are different.  We’ll deal with that down the road.

By now, you know what you want to write.   It might be flash fiction, short stories, articles, essays,  chapters, anecdotes, memoirs, or even poems.

For simplicity, I’m going to refer to this short segment as a “story”.   That does not mean that it will be a complete short story, or a complete chapter.  In fact, it won’t be.  But “story” is good word.  A solid word.  With consonants and vowels.  Remarkable.

Before you start, you need a very brief outline for your story.

This is straightforward and fun.

All you have to do is jot down 3 things:

A) How does the story start?

B) What happens in the middle?

C) How does it end?

A simple sentence for each is plenty.  Make it a sequence, even if the story doesn’t have a timeline.

Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to tickle those keys.  And it is going to be spectauclar, like Nadia Comaneci’s perfect 10 in 1976 Olympics, or Team USA’s mega-upset over the Soviets in the  Lake Placid semifinals.  We’re talking SportsCenter keyboarding.  Well, maybe that’s a little extreme.  Or, as we writers say: hyperbole.  It ain’t math.

Step 1: Jot down that beginning, middle, and end on a Post-It Note or envelope.

Step 2: Go to your “well”, i.e., that converted mud room with an outdated computer.

Step 3: Sit down at your keyboard and open up a simple word processor*.

Step 4: Make sure nothing else is running on the PC.  Remember to disconnect your connection to the Internet.

Step 5: Get some Scotch tape and attach a copy of your outline to the side of your monitor.

Step 6: Place the cursor at the top left of your word processor window.  Test it a couple of times to make sure it’s working correctly.  I like to type quotes from Daffy Duck.  You may prefer Theroux, but I find Daffy quite sublime.

Step 7: Now, turn off the monitor.

Did you just do a double-take?  I thought so.

I said, “Turn off the monitor.”

You will be writing without being able to see what you’re writing.

Step 8: Relax, glance at your outline, and start typing.  Do not think, just writeDo not think, just write.   Or to put it another way: Do not think, just write.

You are going to do a brain dump in Step 7.

  • You are going to go all stream-of-consciousness on your keyboard.
  • You will not edit.
  • You will not second-guess yourself.
  • You will not criticize yourself
  • You will not worry about grammar.
  • You will not worry about spelling.
  • You will not think.

Your subconscious will guide you from start to finish.

In the same way that you are able to drive your car from home to the grocery store without thinking about the mechanics of the brake system and fuel injectors, you will be able to “drive” from the start of your story to the end.

Step 9: Turn your monitor back on, save your file (repeat: save your file), and then walk away.

Next time you will do the same thing with the next story on your agenda.

And now it is time to get out of that well.

Don’t worry: Lassie will come to your rescue; she speaks perfect English, after all.

As always: Peace, from Keith.

* Do not use Word or Pages or OpenOffice.  Use something simple, like Bean for the Mac or WordPad for Windows.  The reason is that you don’t need all that clutter that comes with a memory hog like MS Word.

© Copyright 2011, Alan Keith Parker.  If you’re going to steal my work and use it as your own I hope somebody keys your car.  Then you’ll hear from my lawyer.   How’s that for a bad day?

2 thoughts on “Writing with Lassie

  1. I have never turned off my monitor (but I know I will try it now you have suggested it) but I regularly lean back and brain-dump with my eyes closed since I can touch type. It has much the same effect. I like it because it stops me getting hung up on spelling and – well anything except that flow of conciousness.
    Good post, thank you.

  2. Thanks for the reply!

    Most folks use laptops today, so closing your eyes works just as well.
    For me, self-criticism and real time editing are major hurdles to overcome, so the “blank monitor” has oftn been a godsend.

    The basic idea is to let your right brain do as much of the work as possible without too much interference from the right brain.

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