How My Writing Process Changed

Pam Muir

Patrick once said, and I’m paraphrasing, “Creativity comes from a willingness to make a mess.” This has impacted me the most. To me it means it’s ok to turn in a crappy draft because each stroke of the shit pen will ultimately unlock your creativity and turn you into a better writer. I practice Transcendental Meditation and within the practice we talk about clearing out webs of badness to let in light;  I see making a creative mess in a similar way;  the more mess I make, the more room I’m making for some real beauty to spill out. Hope that makes sense!

Write Yourself Free’s workshops have equipped me with a toolbox of techniques to conquer my writing demons.

Here are a few examples:

The Rules

Before: I second-guessed every word and agonized over grammar and writing rules. I’d spend twenty minutes on one sentence and at the end of an hour, have three new sentences and no recollection of the story ideas dancing in my head when I first sat down!

Now: I write forward for 30 minute stretches. No looking back or stopping. Also, Patrick had me write down each “rule” that concerned me; I did this and continue to; getting each one out of my mind and on actual paper has helped tremendously.

Validation

Before: I worried no one would like my writing. I’d change story ideas and rethink characters in the spirit of making the overall story more likeable (publishable? probably). This essentially stopped my pen; there was little forward momentum.

Now: I write for me. I write for the characters – I let their experience tell the story. It’s easier to do this given the tone Patrick sets in the workshop; I have a safe place to bring drafts.

Self-Doubt

Before: I constantly worried that I’d never finish a story and that I wouldn’t be able to pull off a story arc and worried that  the ending would suck (if there even was one).

Now: I write outside the story (a lot); this is the most liberating technique Patrick taught me. This gets me through tough dialogue, turning points, understanding perspective, everything. Plus – Prime/Define/Complicate/Reveal. This runs through my head constantly;  it’s so straight-forward and logical. It’s like a compass for me. I check it from time to time to stay on course.

Characters = Strangers

Before: I didn’t feel close to my characters. I honestly had no idea how they’d act in some cases. This pissed me off as I was the one who created them in the first place, even if they were one dimensional and terminal.

Now: Writing outside the story is amazing. I get to know my characters by putting them in situations (not part of the story) and seeing them through the eyes of other characters (some part of the story, some not). But also, drawing on my understanding of human perception (characters as goal seekers like us), as Patrick discusses  often. The line between a real person and a character used to be pretty heavy and dark for me – now, not so much.

Revision is a Four Letter Word

Before: I feared revision. The “R” word loomed in the back of every drafting session.

Now: Just knowing I’m not alone in the process has taken this one off my worry list. Plus, Patrick provides a three or four-step model to follow which again is logical an simple to understand; it’s takes this mammoth thing and breaks it down into manageable parts.

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