Archive: March 11th, 2008

Take Your Starting Positions…


How fast can you assume your starting position?

When you sit down to write, is everything ready for you to just … go?

  • Are you reaching for your pen or your keyboard even as you sit down in your chair? Do you keep everything ready to go at an instant’s notice, so that you can take advantage of inspiration whenever it strikes?
  • Or do you need to settle in, adjust the things on your desk, arrange your pens just so, take a sip of coffee, gaze at the pictures on your desk? Do you need to center and compose yourself, reaching deep inside before you start to write?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question, class. Either methodology is equally valid, it all depends on which works for you. And this is what makes this important.

You may write like a cannon-shot, where your best works comes fast and furious, no stopping to think, no questioning your word choices, just boom, boom, boom, words down on paper. Editing will come later. Or, you may prefer to reach for your muse’s hand and let her gently walk you through the writing process, where it’s almost a meditative process. Pondering over the ideal words, shaping each sentence before it leaves your hand.

What matters is that you know which works for you. A cannon-shot writer will slowly go bananas trying to find his “muse” (who’s likely deaf from all the blasts). A meditative writer is only going to be stressed with the pressure of sitting and quickly writing … think of Emily Dickenson in a 1940′s newspaper room, for example. Does the phrase “fragile flower” come to mind? But that same, hardbitten journalist isn’t going to be going on any touchy-feely writing retreats in the woods, either.

The question here is for you to figure out what works for you and then try to arrange circumstances to fit. Should your computer be powered up, with the word processor running all the time, ready to go? Should there be pen and paper in your pocket for sudden bursts of inspiration? Or should your desk be more of an oasis, where your inner muse can hang out, spinning happy, writing thoughts for you?

Because … and this is why this is important … whether you can just sit down and write or whether you need the familiar routine of booting up the computer, adjusting your papers, and so on, you need to structure your writing experience so that you can slip from the default, Not-Writing behavior that we’re all in for much of the day to the ideal, Writing frame of mind as seamlessly as possible.

(Don’t miss the follow-up to this post: The Finish Line.)