Image credit: Luca Onniboni
I thought I’d take the Inception approach to this post.
I’m going to channel my creativity by detailing a strategy for channelling my creativity, that I came up with by channelling my creativity. Bear with me.
Whilst working on my portfolio for undergrad Creative Writing, I spent a lot of time looking at the dreaded New Document. It always felt like I was staring into some cosmic void, rather than a blank page. I’d plan a piece of content to the nines, but getting the first words written was always a hurdle. Once I had something down it was easier to find a writing ‘groove’, it was just a matter of getting off the mark. The solution I came up with – that I applied to this very post – is pretty simple:
Make the page un-blank.
And I use my imagination to un-blank the page. I imagine that I am an enchanted typewriter; specifically, one that types autonomously.
I start typing a stream of consciousness – no real consideration for what’s going down. Any time that I pause or falter, I imagine that I am at the end of my line. My automatic carriage-return pings me back to the margin and I start again.
After 15-20 carriage-returns, I move away from writing snippets of consciousness, and towards out-of-context passages that I’d like to see in the final version of my piece. From there, I cut out the ‘beep boop I am a magic typewriter’ ramblings, and start to string together the valuable content.
In the same way that a marble sculptor works a block of stone, I take a ‘multi-pass’ approach to connecting the passages. Starting from the top of the document, I pad around with more content. If I don’t immediately find words, I carriage-return my way down the document to wherever I do have something to type. When I reach the bottom of the document, I jump straight back to the top for another iteration. Eventually, I have all the words for the piece of writing, in the general structure that they need to be. Then I can focus on flow and polish.
As silly as this approach sounds, the takeaway is that I navigate writers’ block by focusing on hitting a certain writing velocity, without dwelling on the quality of my writing. In a sense, each passage that I churn out is ‘low fidelity’, so it doesn’t hurt so much when I cut them from further drafts.
It’s a pretty effective way of failing fast with the written word.