You may be familiar with the practice of freewriting. It is a useful brainstorming technique used frequently in composition classes. Sometimes the practice is called fastwriting. I prefer freewrite because free more closely suggests the intent of this practice. To freewrite is to write without ceasing, usually for a given period of time. Your pen or pencil should not leave the paper. Neither should you stop to erase or correct. Importantly, you are not bound, in a freewrite, to correct grammar, spelling, or punctuation. Just write whatever comes to mind for as long as prescribed.
Sometimes, this practice can free your mind from your usual thought patterns and allow you access to ideas you might otherwise be too busy editing. Most importantly, freewriting allows you to stop making sense. When you are not trying to order your thinking, your writing surprises. When you are not trying to infuse your writing with meaning, you may discover beauty. Exercises often will ask you to freewrite in response to a specific prompt.
You also can use freewriting in your journal exercises. Julia Cameron suggests freewriting three pages each morning, immediately after waking. A tool from Cameron's The Artist's Way, these "morning pages" are intended both to tap into your early morning dream consciousness and as a tool to write through the regular noise of your thinking. You may want to try them out.
This book will provide additional opportunities for daily writing practice. In each chapter, you will encounter prompts and exercises under the header "Writing Practice." Each Writing Practice exercise will give you detailed instructions that will help you produce a specific piece of writing. Some will build on previous exercises to create a narrative; some will be discrete.
Again, rely on your "garbage detector." If you don't find benefit from an exercise, don't torture yourself. However, avoid resisting for resistance's sake. In this context, you may learn as much from submitting to direction as from resisting. Often, Writing Practice exercises will push you beyond your comfort zone. If you find yourself squirming at the keyboard, you are probably writing something important. Let yourself squirm. Write through it. You may actually feel driven by demons in some moments. Let them drive. You will survive discomfort and your writing will benefit.
You also will encounter several Reading Practice prompts. Reading is a fundamental practice for a writer. You will learn more from reading novels, stories, and nonfiction by great writers than you will ever glean from a writing guide. If you want to write, you probably are a reader already. If your reading is limited to newspapers and magazines, acquaint yourself with your local library and bookstores. Great reading is available on-line now, from classic literature to contemporary fiction and nonfiction. I will often suggest titles that correlate to a specific writing exercise or discussion.
Additionally, chapters and Appendix A include some examples from various writers. These excerpts often illustrate ideas presented in individual chapters. If you find yourself hungry for more, and I hope you will, information for all excerpts is available at the book's end.
Sample student writing appears as well, in Appendix B.
Creative Writing: The Easy Way is an introduction to creative narrative. I will use the term "narrative" to identify fiction, both short stories and novels, and creative nonfiction. In the broadest sense, narrative means anything told or recounted. For our purposes, we will define it more narrowly as an account told with literary and storytelling techniques. Each type of narrative is given a chapter in Part Three: Form and Genre. For specific terminology, refer to the Glossary of Terms, beginning on page 153.
I will use masculine and feminine pronouns interchangeably in exercises and examples.
As I have mentioned, writing is a daily practice. For me, the idea of daily anything can seem like a burden. My tendency, when prescribed any "practice," is to resist. But once again, contextually, resistance is futile. That is to say, resisting the practice of writing serves only to keep you from writing. If you must, trick yourself. Write at different times in the day, for different periods of time.
Another approach, which is itself a kind of trick, is to change your mind. You picked up this guide because you care about creative writing. You want to be a writer; you want to write. You will find, if you allow yourself the routine of daily practice, that focused attention to your writing can be joyous. I started writing because I discovered, at a young age, that I could lose myself in words. I could create worlds I wanted to inhabit, control time and space, surrender to rhythms and sound. When I was five or six, I remember playing in the mud, molding the clay-rich dirt into a heart-shaped container. When my mother called me in, I was shocked to realize I had been two hours at my creation. It was one of my first epiphanies, that time really can stand still when the mind is absorbed. As I got older, writing brought me the same loss of time, the same absorption I'd enjoyed as a child playing in the mud.
I immersed myself in writing stories and poems because I found joy in that absorption. That joy has transmogrified with age and education, but it is the moment when my desire and practice meet. Practice is the realization of the artistic impulse. You can choose to make it a chore, or you can choose to recognize each day's writing practice as a window open to the possibility of joy.
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