I've been doing a lot of free-writing lately and I didn't quite realize how much it could help my ability to write.
The technique I've been using is to take a random letter of the alphabet and start a word with that letter. And then see where that sentence takes me. And then I see where that paragraph takes me. And as soon as I realize I'm consciously in control of what's coming out, I pull back and start over, using that same random letter. A new word comes out and my imagination takes me away to a different place. The goal is to keep your subconscious in the driver's seat to just see what comes out.
I've always done free-writing in my journal, but not in such a structured (but unstructured, too) way. Usually my free-writing consists of asking myself questions about my stories, talking about my struggles, or trying to just make sense of what it is I need to do on a given day. But this way frees my imagination and forces it to work quickly.
So, I think it's been helping for two reasons. First, it's helped because it presents ideas to me that I didn't know I had rattling around in my head. It dredges up memories I'd long forgotten, it gives me imagery I hadn't considered. And in a few cases, I found that I had conjured situations and imagery that I was able to almost immediately plug into my work in progress. The second reason I think it's helped is because I've been doing it right before I've been doing my morning writing. And it feels like I'm priming the pump of my creativity. I've been doing it for about a month now and it's firmly embedded itself into my routine because it really helps limber up my imagination.
This whole situation has been part of my effort to find new techniques that will help me live a better life and be a better writer. Seeing these things come out on the page, completely turning off the filter of my brain, has been energizing to my emotional health and my creativity. It's something I can see adapting into my routine long term so that I can keep the flexible edge to my creativity.
I'm curious, what sort of rituals or warm up exercises do you do to get yourself into the zone for writing?
I'm totally interested in finding out what they are so I can try them out and see what I can learn from them. Maybe they don't work for me as well as they work for you. Maybe they work far better for me than they do for you. Who knows? All I know is that I'm going to constantly explore ways to make myself a better writer. And if that means stealing your technique or warm-up exercise, I'm going to.
I will admit that I didn't learn of doing this technique in a book. Long story short, I started to see a therapist in an effort to take better care of myself. This was an assignment the therapist gave me for a jumping off point for our sessions and I found that it had one unexpected and completely excellent side effect. Yes, turning the filter off can let painful things come to the surface, but isn't that what writing is all about?
That's the other thing I'll remind you all to do: take care of yourself. Self-care is super important. There is a lot going on in the world that we don't necessarily have control of, but causes untold amounts of consternation and anxiety. You don't have to live with it every day, you can see someone and they can help you navigate through it. Don't skimp on that.
As for my writing lately! I just released the January short story for my Patreon. It's called Thrasher and turned out rather well, I think. And please, please, please, support me on Patreon if you can. I'm hoping that sooner or later I'll be able to make enough from my writing to switch to writing full time and your support is the only way I can realize my ability to do that.
Next, I have had two pieces come out for StarWars.Com. The first was a playlist that will help you track C-3PO's journey. And the other is about which Star Wars Celebration is best. (Spoiler: It was the first one.)
I had a piece about 9 ways the iPhone frustrated and delighted users over its first decade for HowStuffWorks come out.
There is a lot more coming up in the near future, too, including a new column at StarWars.com.
As a reminder: Please join my short story Patreon here. Your contributions to the Patreon help me write more like this.
The Aeronaut and Escape Vector are still out and still need your purchases and reviews. If nothing else, they can use you telling people about them. If you want signed copies, visit the shop here on this page.
Also! here's the full list of "rules and guidelines" I've been collecting over my years of studying writing advice and process.
As far as my work outside of all this: There's a lot of great stuff on Big Shiny Robot! and Full of Sith for you.