Hello and welcome to the 100 Day Writing Challenge, Day 14.
Two solid weeks of writing. Stacks up quickly, doesn’t it? And you’re back again, as we work on some basic creative drills that are going to build up your stamina and flexibility for the days and weeks ahead. We’ve still got great vistas to explore together and I want to make sure you’re ready for some of those challenging, intricate tasks by conditioning you to let go, trust yourself, and yes, sometimes write by following your intuition.
This is probably the concept I find hardest to explain when I’m teaching writers. I don’t know if it’s because something we take for granted, or because I just haven’t done the necessary self-enquiry to be able to articulate it properly, but there’s a mode of writing, a kind of state of mind whilst writing, rather, where you sort of… squint your brain? Or maybe it’s less of a squint, more of a sort of flop. Like you take the critical, executive, error monitoring part of your brain – for you neuroscience nerds current wisdom points the finger squarely at the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex – and you let it collapse into a bean bag.
It’s like your brain’s got a bouncer, and he stands there and watches and makes sure you don’t do anything rude or cruel or embarrassing, and you go to him, ok Johnny, take five. And he wanders off to the break room and kicks back and watches the little plasma screen TV hanging off a bracket in the corner or maybe he has a nap. And meanwhile you just go to town. You pour everything out onto the page. You’re not checking people’s IDs, there’s people dancing on the tables, it’s mayhem. Then after ten minutes you’re like ‘time’s up’. You stop. And Johnny comes back in: ‘did I miss anything?’ Oh no, you say. Very quiet.
Now we’re doing this in controlled bursts, very mindfully, for a specific purpose. In our analogy, Johnny is a very good, very conscientious bouncer, and he looks after the safety of the club very well, but to be honest he can be a bit of a party pooper. You know? It’s hard for anything very spontaneous to happen. You definitely want him there. You need him. But there might be times, every so often, where you’d just like him to temporarily avert his gaze.
Doing these freewrites are just that. They are helping you to have little parties where Johnny isn’t watching. Otherwise, if you’re too careful, too wise, too conscientious, too well-read, too trope-savvy, too grown-up, frankly, your writing ends up all muzzle and no fucking rottweiler. And stories ought to be risky, shouldn’t they? A little dangerous.
For whatever danger means to you.
So you know what I’m going to ask you to do. Ten minutes of continuous freewriting. Forget spelling, consistency, coherence, whatever constraints you might usually apply. The only thing to be strict on yourself with is keep writing. Don’t delete, don’t revise. Move forward, keep those fingers tapping away at the keys and let’s see what comes.
Right. Are you ready? I’m so delighted. Go.
And there you have it.
How did that feel for you today? What’s your experience been, writing these freewrites? Are you still enjoying them? Do they feel different each time? Are you starting to get a bit itchy for more structure? Like, come on, Tim, I get it, I understand what a freewrite is, let’s move on? Or are you dreading the point where we leave them behind?
When I said writing should be dangerous, to be clear, I don’t mean that it should always be edgy or violent or cynical or offensive. Danger, for you, might be writing a deeply felt scene of tender romance, or a cosy detective mystery set in a small village, or a rhyming story for children. Doing one of those might make you feel deeply exposed. The number of people I work with who consider themselves openbunnyquotes serious closebunnyquotes writers, for whom the idea of writing humour is genuinely terrifying. Like you can see their cheeks beginning to glow at the prospect of writing something that might be silly, a bit goofy, not entirely highminded and artsy.
Sometimes the safest, easiest, most comfortable format for you is some grimdark, gritty, visceral gorefest or some angry political jeremiad. Not to say those aren’t legitimate styles, just that nothing is inherently dangerous. It’s all relative to your sense of yourself as a writer and where your boundaries are.
And, heads up, throughout this hundred days I’m going to push you. I want you to explore some of those areas that feel less natural, less comfortable. Some of this journey won’t feel immediately empowering, it will expose you to your fears and weaknesses. I’ll try to do that with compassion and structure, but just so you know. That’s where we’re going. And that’s why I’m devoting so much time to the freewriting dojo. This is where you earn your chops.
Ok. Thank you for your hard work and for your continued faith in what we’re doing. It’s a real privilege to work with you. See you tomorrow.