Creative writing needs the whole mind: the creative/intuitive right-brain; and the critical/logical left-brain.
Those with dominant creativity can be overly-sensitive to critique. They resist (or even avoid entirely) the revision process. Their writing tends to be exuberant and inventive, showing signs of brilliance. Words come to them quickly and easily, but they often push too soon for publication. If they don’t learn to quiet their inner artist, their writing will tend to be undisciplined, unfocussed and unpolished.
Those with a dominant critical aptitude prefer to fuss and fiddle. They love to revise. They’re usually grammar and vocabulary buffs. When it’s time to write something new, they stall and labor over each word, pausing to rewrite each sentence before they move on to the next. If they don’t learn to quiet their inner critic, their writing will tend to be intellectual and wordy, predictable and humdrum.
This article is for the writers whose inner critic won’t ever shut up.
Try these tips for quieting the inner critic during the creative inspiration phase of a first draft.
- Get yourself a fancy pen and a lovely unlined journal. Keep it by your bed to write when you first wake up. Carry it with you so you can write when you’re upset or elated. Or keep it with you to write immediately after a good workout or run. Then write for twenty minutes without any cross-outs or rewrites. Lull your inner critic to sleep by saying this isn’t important. It’s not even a first draft of anything; it’s just “stuff.”
- Pull up an old piece of writing you aren’t happy with, and contradict everything you’ve written. After every paragraph, write the words, “That isn’t what I really meant. I meant to say…” and put down any old thing that pops into your head. Be outrageous.
- Think of a wacky character, someone you from literature, film/television, or real life who is eccentric or colorful. Pretend you are that person and write a scene from that point of view.
- Write with an ear for sound and don’t concern yourself with whether it makes sense.
- Write a few paragraphs of liquid hums. Come up with as many words as possible that contain the letters r, l, m, n, and ng.
- Write a few vibrating windy paragraphs. Seek words with h, f, v, th, s, z, and sh.
- Now write some blasting, explosive paragraphs. Use p, b, k, g, t and d.
- Make a list of ten nouns that have to do with something you do on a regular basis (gardening, cooking, taking a shower, driving to work). Now make a list of ten verbs that have to do with something you seldom or never do (trapeze tricks, deep sea diving, negotiating a cease-fire between warring nations, skating pairs in the winter olympics). Finally make a list of ten adjectives that describe your dream house, the one you’ll probably never get to live in. Crash all thirty words together on one page of writing.
By learning to access both hemispheres of your mind, the creative and the critical, you can produce writing that is fresh, lively, unique and also coherent, understandable, and free of the snags and glitches (in grammar and flow) that astute readers recognize as marks of inexperience.
Create and revise. Make messes and straighten up. Write and rewrite.