Writing Techniques I Can’t Live Without :: Part 1
Everyone has his/her own style of writing. The hardest part about learning to write is sifting through all of the advice out there. Everyone has a different style that works for him/her, so how do you know what works for you? I’ve found that good old fashioned trial and error is the best method for discovering what works and what doesn’t.
Perhaps you like to write at night like Edgar Allan Poe, or maybe you like to write early in the morning like Hemmingway. You won’t know until you try, so you should try to learn and test as many creative techniques as possible until you find the ones that work best for you.
The following are the principles that work for me. Feel free to use some of them or none of them. You never know what might work.
1. Every project is different.
One of the principles of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is “know the terrain.” Along with finding what techniques work best for you, it’s important to find out which techniques work for each type of project. For example, my creative process when writing feature screenplays is much different than when I’m writing short films, which is different from how I approach short stories. Know the terrain of the project you’re embarking on, so that you can apply the methods that best suit the medium.
2. Find the Proper Tools.
The easiest way I’ve found to avoid writers block is to write in the way that allows me to get my thoughts out onto the page as quickly as I can. I used to write directly into a screenplay formatting program but I found that having to format constantly was slowing me down and clogging up my creativity. You want to be able to jot down everything when inspiration strikes, so find a medium that allows you to get the most volume onto the page.
I tend to think very fast, so I prefer to write everything out by hand first, then transcode my writing into a screenplay program the next day. Not only does it help me to write quickly, but it also allows me to proofread and edit what I’ve written, that way my first typed draft is really my second draft.
Getting in the habit of picking a tool that you like allows you to ritualize writing. I use Blue Bic Round Stic Grip pens and write on Yellow Pads of paper. I like the way my handwriting looks with those pens and I read somewhere that yellow paper stimulates your brain more than white paper. Who knows if it’s true, and honestly who cares. Find whatever tools you like and use them every time. Which brings me to the third principle I use.
3. Ritualize your Process.
A lot of writers are superstitious. They have to sit in the same café, or like me, use the same pens and paper. I used to think that this was just pure superstition, but it does serve a purpose. I like to think of it like muscle memory. Ritualizing your creativity helps clue your brain into the process of writing. The muscle memory of looking at yellow paper and gripping the cheap rubber grip of the Bic pen reminds me of writing and helps me get into the flow easier.
If you ritualize your process, you can always trigger that muscle memory. I got in the habit of making a pot of coffee before I wrote, which caused my brain to associate the smell of coffee with writing. Now, whenever I need to get back into that creative headspace, I just make a pot of coffee. Like Pavlov’s salivating dogs, you must train your brain to respond to whatever makes you feel like you’re writing. Ring whatever metaphoric bell you need to get your creative saliva flowing.
So those are a few of the techniques I use. Check back next Friday for Part 2. I hope everyone is having a productive New Year, and if you need to hear any of your writing heard aloud, why not take advantage of our FREE meet up group called Joie De Vivre? You can join our Facebook group here!
Any writing advice you’ve picked up or secret tip you’d like to offer? Leave it in the comments below!
Photo Credit: Ernest Hemmingway & Jean Patchett courtesy of ironingboardcollective; Edgar Allan Poe courtesy of collectiveconscious