This morning I read Scott Berkun’s essay on ‘How to write 1000 words’. It looked so easy – just sit down at the keyboard with a few bullet-pointed ideas and get cracking. My summary follows:
- pick an idea from your notebook
- note down points relevant to your idea
- develop them
- weave them into a coherent structure
- stay on track … OMG another torrential downpour as we speak …
- Edit, edit, edit
- KISS – keep it simple stupid!
So why is it so difficult?
It’s that damn self-critic again isn’t it. Getting in the way, saying the idea is useless, that no-one, absolutely no-one will be interested in reading it.
Ideas flop – like the ice-cream and cherries above.
I can’t understand it. When I was at primary school and even in my teenage years, I had the most fertile imagination. The stories would come out of nowhere and bounce in abundance onto the page. Now I sit at the keyboard in a state of inertia.
I wonder whether it’s got something to do with a pen and paper vs a keyboard. I’ve always loved the process of writing (using a pen), loved pens and pencils, loved beautiful paper. I used to do calligraphy and would spend hours practicing the different styles. I still love writing and receiving hand-written notes – there’s something so special about them. Someone has spent time directing their thoughts to ME and me alone. They’re not saved into a folder for later retrieval and reworking – cutting and pasting – to be sent on to someone else.
It could be that age and the reality of day-to-day life has crushed my creative spirit. I’ve spent too long drafting boring technical documents using sparse business language.
Scott says that his ideas come from observations of daily life, of things that might suddenly occur to him. He immediately jots them down in his ever ready notebook. I find that by the time I’ve unearthed my notebook from the bottom of my handbag and found a pen, the idea’s already floated away. I keep a pen and paper by my bedside for ideas that appear in the middle of the night. When I look at them in the morning my reaction is usually something along the lines of, “What was I thinking?”
When I looked at my piece of paper this morning, it said “Would I ever have botox?” Of course I wouldn’t! No way would I want to inject rat poison into my face. And why on earth would I want to substitute a face full of expression to one without.
I suspect the idea came from a TV news item about a woman in the States who’d taken to injecting her nine-year-old with botox. And then there was an article in yesterday’s paper about the possibility of beauty pageants for children coming to New Zealand.
As you can see, the self-critic intervened … who’s interested in my opinion anyway?
Scott suggests that when the ideas stop flowing, you should go back and re-read. So I’ll do that …
Mmm that was interesting. The edit function changed the words “nine-year-old with botox” to “nine-year-old with bottom.”
Even the auto-editor has a problem with that idea.
The other idea scrawled in black felt-tip pen on my piece of paper was, ‘maybe I should take up pole-dancing’. Watch this space …