Through the Guard Rail (or Writing With Abandon)

Hesitate, and you are lost. These words can apply to most any action, and writing is one of them. When writers spend heaps of time (seconds, minutes, hours) laboring over the act of writing, they miss the more important thing: the fact of having written. They bite their nails, tear their hair out, generally worry themselves sick over whether or not what they’re writing is Good Enough. They do this, instead of actually writing the story they need to write. Rather than spending time tinkering with a single sentence during the first draft, a writer’s time is better spent writing furiously, through the guard rail, with abandon.

Leaving Your Inner Critic in the Dust

I like to imagine my Inner Critic as some scrawny, wheedling guy trailing behind me while I write. He peers over my shoulder, waiting for me to pause so he can jab a finger at my screen or page and say something like, “What are you thinking, writing that? That’s complete crap, and you know it. It’s trite, hackneyed, old news. No one’s going to want to read this. You need to fix this right now.”

But the truth is that I don’t need to fix it right now. It’s the first draft for a reason. I need to get the story belted out before I step back and fine-tune the details. But I can’t do that if I’ve got an Inner Critic hanging over me, whining about how my similes are lazy pieces of shit.

So what do I do? I kick the bastard in his kneecap and drive off in my Writer-Mobile while he rolls around in the dirt, crying about how my plot is choppy.

More specifically, I write fast. I set a timer (sometimes 30 minutes, sometimes 10) and just write. I don’t give myself the permission to keep checking my word count. I don’t let myself stop for more than a couple of seconds before I hit the keys again. I go until the timer runs out. (Sidenote: this tactic works especially well for me because, as someone with ADHD, an immediate deadline is just the ticket to get me to do my work.)

By pounding away at the keyboard, I step on the gas and speed off down the Literary Highway, paying no heed to where I’m going (except for the bits of the plot that I need to think about so I can write them). Only thinking about how I need to put one word in front of another.

If that means crashing through a guard rail into uncharted and sometimes dangerous territory, then so be it.

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