Writing into the Dream – a six-week experiment in becoming a more productive writer
What I learned this week
I’m a great goal-setter. I’m a list-maker. My analytical brain likes to break a larger goal into smaller tasks, and then tackling each task until I’ve got the whole thing done.
It is harder for me is to play. It feels uncomfortable to consider writing that “doesn’t go anywhere.” Is it part of my novel? Is it a new short story? Is it something I can put on my blog? Maybe … and maybe not.
But, some of my most inventive – and satisfying – work has come either during, or immediately after, doing a writing exercise. So, I sigh, sit down at my desk – or take myself out somewhere – and write about the trivial, the poetic, the odd or unusual. I start with a line of poetry, I try to imitate a poet, I put myself in a writer’s mind and write a sliver about their life. I take random words and make them into a story. I sketch and then write about what I sketched.
The big thing I’m proud of this week was setting aside about 20-30 minutes (of my ninety-minute writing time) for experimental writing. I sometimes think of Google “20% Rule,” a concept where team members are encourage to spend one-fifth of their time, or one day a week, working on something not related to an existing project assignment (Gmail was reported to have come out of “20%” time). David Kelley, an award-winning designer and founder of Stanford’s d.school, says you need to get out of your own field of practice for instance, go to a junk yard or a flea market – to come up with really good design ideas. I think that giving myself time to experiment with something new has been a good move. I’m excited.
Am I a more productive writer now?
Yes. Absolutely! In this six-week experiment I have started writing more consistently, for longer periods, than when I started. Yay!
- Most days I write for about ninety minutes now, sometimes longer, Monday through Friday – a bit shorter times on the weekends, when I spend time with family. I try to write in the morning, before noon. That way, I usually avoid getting bogged down in email or other quotidian tasks.
- Most days I spent about 20-30 minutes on “creative play” writing – sketch-and-write, write from a line of poetry, from an illustration, etc. Or, I write something for the blog.
- If something wonderful happens, if I write something brilliant – I take a moment and compliment my creative-writer self. Good job! That was great! You ARE an imaginer and a writer! If I’m disappointed in the writing, I try not to blame myself. Oh, well, that didn’t work out, at least I tried it.
(To demonstrate how this experiment has helped me achieve my writing goals, I’ll probably publish a short blog post in the next few days describing my current projects.)
Thank you for sharing this experiment with me! I have learned so much from readers’ comments and readers’ suggestions.
As a send-off, I want to share writer Neil Gaiman’s terrific speech, “Make Good Art.” Maybe you’ve seen it – it’s only about 4 minutes long on YouTube – take a look! (Go ahead, I’ll wait! . . . oh, you’re back? Great.) You’ll be inspired, I guarantee it! Here is one thing from Neil’s speech that I truly believe:
If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something. And the mistakes in themselves can be useful. . .
And remember that whatever discipline you are in, whether you are a musician or a photographer, a fine artist or a cartoonist, a writer, a dancer, a designer, whatever you do, you have one thing that’s unique. You have the ability to make art. And for me, and for so many of the people I have known, that’s been a lifesaver. The ultimate lifesaver. It gets you through good times and it gets you through the other ones. . . .
Make good art. I’m serious. (Neil Gaiman’s ‘Make Good Art’ speech.)
Share your thoughts!
How has your writing changed? What are you doing differently now, if anything?
I may come back to this #productivewriter experiment in a few weeks, because I have even more strategies to try out. For now, as always, I wish you the gift of finding your own voice, and of enjoying your own creative expression. Thank you, to everyone who has commented during this project. I have enjoyed being on this journey with you!