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Monday, August 1,2011

Spontaneous Writing for Getting Started and Unstuck

By Cary Bayer  
If there’s a novel, book, screenplay, pamphlet, article, poem, training, or any kind of writing that you’d love to do or simply need to do, one of the best ways to get it started--and get it moving if it’s stuck--is a discipline I call Spontaneous Writing. All you have to do is set aside 10-15 minutes each day and keep your pen--or your fingers on the keyboard—moving. That’s it.

Say you’re writing a novel, and you know where the story starts and ends, but you don’t know much about each character’s nature and back story. Take an alarm or a timer with you, set it for 10-15 minutes (your choice), and let your fingers move without stopping. Even when you have nothing in your mind, keep your fingers going, even if you wind up saying, “I have nothing further to say about her” or “I don’t know why he has that twinkle in his eye.”

You might start by picking a specific character who you’d like to focus on for the particular Spontaneous Writing session. Start by writing where this character was born, when he was born, to whom he was born, the circumstances of that birth (in marriage? out of wedlock? a love child?), the year of his birth or anything that might be of interest or unusual about his birth. After all, birth is the first entrance into this world for all of us. Was it in a hospital, at home, or under water? M o r e o v e r , h o w d o t h e circumstances of his birth affect the character as your novel begins? How might it affect him as the plot unfolds? All of these are just matters of his birth itself.

Moving on—probably for another session—focus on what he looks like? What are his distinguishing features? What does he believe in? What are his idiosyncrasies? What does he love in life? What does he hate? Who loves him? Who hates him? What secrets does he carry around within him? Who has he betrayed? Who has betrayed him? In these sessions you can discover what lurks in your Creative Source about this character. You can learn things that you might never know if you just tried to concentrate and will the character into being.

You can do this for each character, you can do this for plot developments, or any points that you want to leave the reader with in this book. Once you’ve laid out all of this you’ll have a rich background for the development of your novel. You can then begin actually writing the book itself. And you can do this in the same exact way that you developed characters and plot—writing continuously for 10-15 minutes, without interruption, not stopping to edit or proofread, for example. You can perform these crucial editorial functions immediately following Spontaneous Writing if you like, or at a different time altogether when you’re further removed from the energy of creation. You can also use this approach for any kind of creative project—not just novels.

The whole idea behind the creative session, however, is for spontaneity to rule the day, without the critical involvement of the intellect. Your Creative Source, your Muse, if you will, is a much better creator than your ego. I know this because I have personally used this method to write first drafts of two different novels. I was completely amazed at the quantity of material that could come out in just 10 minutes. I was also amazed at the quality of the material that would emerge: this took the form of the writing itself, as well as concepts and plot developments.

If you stick to this discipline— and who doesn’t have a measly 10-15 minutes a day?—you’ll have put in between 70 minutes and an hour and three quarters per week, or probably about 10 pages, give or take a page or more, each week. That’s nothing to sneeze at, especially for those who’ve been stuck and blocked, and unable to create anything. Spontaneous Writing is about the best way to get unstuck in your creative venture, connect to your Muse, and come up with some terrific pieces of creativity that you might not have ever come up with.


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