Hello and welcome to the 100 Day Writing Challenge, Day 16.
So for the past five days – and this cannot come as any great revelation to you, after all, you were there – you have been, at my behest, doing freewrites. You’ve burst out of the gates upon the back of the snorting rodeo bull that is your own creativity – who knew? Who could have guessed at its power? – and after five days of gamely clinging on I think it’s high time you allow yourself to channel that almost sexual energy into some specific forms.
It’s important to me that these hundred days have more to them than just my turning up, giving you a vague writing prompt ‘write a story about a man who can’t find his hat’, then disappearing and leaving you to do all the work. I’m not a big fan of prompts as a rule. I find them less a helpful tool for writing and more like someone’s asked me to do them an awkward favour. They’re a bit too easy to generate and while, look, I concede good things can come out of them sometimes, and that’s ok, I just feel dutybound to give you a bit more than 100 days of goofy random assignments.
This is the 100 Day Writing Challenge, not Timbo’s Wacky Scavenger Hunt o’ Words.
That said, I do think that one useful adaptation of the freewriting technique is an exercise I call ‘Hit The Ground Running’. That is to say, you smash out ten minutes of writing by continuing a sentence that stops halfway through. And that’s what we’re going to do today.
In many ways, this is actually easier than pure freewriting because it takes away the burden of having to come up with a starting point. But it was important to me to challenge you and let you build up a tolerance to the blank page. It’s really useful to have freewriting in its wild, unmodified form just as a kind of blast of cold water you can use to kick off your writing day.
Because, say you want to work on your novel, but you’re feeling low on confidence, maybe a bit bruised by the week just gone or some tricky experiences the last few sessions you wrote, a freewrite is just like becoming Animal out of the Muppets and doing a feral drum solo while roaring. It’s silly, it’s fun and you inoculate yourself against the fear of mistakes.
Now it can also provide insight, let you try out new styles and voices, it can be genuinely revealing as well, but these tend to be welcome side effects rather than reliable results. My point is, I wanted to really push you first so you could experience the sublime, terrifying, full-force whoomph the great North Sea wave that is raw freewriting. That done we can look at some slightly more refined methods where you can take this technique, this mode, this… attitude, really, and put it to work for you, a bit like harnessing the wind to turn the sails of a turbine, or, well I suppose the more conventional use of a harness is on a horse.
So yes, bridling the rampant horse of your creativity, whispering in its brown, foldable ear, then crying yah and galloping off across the sunlit plains of Book Valley.
So in a moment I’ll start your timer for ten minutes, and I’d like you to write as if you were writing a freewrite. Which means no filtering for quality, no worrying if you wander off topic, start something new, run out of ideas, misspell, whatever. Only rules are, no deleting, and keep the words coming as fast as you can. We can worry about the mess later. Now our only job is to make shapes and be busy.
The main difference today is I’m going to start you off with the beginning of a line, and I’d like you to continue it however you like. So, here’s what I’d like you to write at the top of your page, the first few words which you’re going to continue. I’d like you to write: ‘My darling, I…’ That’s it. ‘My darling’ comma, ‘I’. As in the singular first person. But if you want to make it my darling e y e I’d be churlish indeed to stop you. And terrifyingly powerful, if I could reach across time and space to physically prevent you from writing what you wanted. Fortunately for you and the universe at large I am a mere mortal.
So, ten minute freewrite, beginning ‘My darling, I’. Are you ready? Your ten minutes starts… now.
And that’s it. How did it go? What came out? Who spoke? Anything in there that surprised you? Is what you wrote reflective of your typical style and content, or does it differ? How did you feel before the exercise, how did you feel during it, and how do you feel now? What kind of thoughts and judgements are you having?
I think those last two sets of questions are always worth asking. Checking in with yourself might seem a little hippy-dippy depending on your natural inclinations, and don’t worry, I’m certainly not going to start instructing you to adopt yoga poses as you write, but I think it’s a purely practical, pragmatic consideration. If you don’t acknowledge, identify and take responsibility for your own attitudes and inner state then you’ll simply act out habit and instinct and you rob yourself of autonomy. We have more power to choose than we might realise, I think that’s cool, and certainly within the narrow purview of creative writing I’d like you to be able to choose in ways that serve you and give you more freedom.
Right. Done done done. You are an incredible specimen, thank you for effort today. I shall check in again with you tomorrow.