Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a focus on youth and young adult ministry. For more about Shan, check out her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Breaking ground on this new story of mine has not been nearly as easy as I thought it would be. My main character is, by far, the most broken main character I've ever written about. Being in her head is achingly hard.
Because of that, I'm not having the kind of writing days I like to have. You know the ones. The days where your fingers fly over the keyboard with all sorts of brilliance. I'm not there yet. Every word is costing me something. I feel like I'm pulling each letter from my gut and then having to hose off the icky stuff before I can place it on the page.
It's gross, I know. And exhausting.
My fingers need to fly every now and then. They need to stretch their wings and just go for it and, for whatever reason, this particular story is slow in the making. So, I've decided to start my writing day with a little writing practice, an idea I got from Natalie Goldberg's book, Writing Down the Bones.
The idea is that you set yourself some time (fifteen minutes for me) and you just write. About whatever. The trees outside your window. The character huddled in the corner of your mind waiting for you to give her a story. The way your dad smells after he mows the lawn. Whatever. You just write. You're not supposed to go back and delete, but it's nearly impossible for me to leave a typo alone when I see it, so sometimes I cheat. But the idea is to give your fingers permission to fly wherever they want to fly. Don't hold them back. Don't force them to make sense. Don't try to censor yourself. Just write.
As a published author, you would think this whole concept would be familiar to me, but it wasn't. Not in this way at least. I've done plenty of free writing, but I've never used it as a warm up to my writing day. And I feel like I've stumbled upon this glorious little gem of a practice that has already enhanced my work.
Two days ago, I spent fifteen minutes writing about an unexpected guest giving a eulogy at a funeral and today I spent fifteen minutes writing about the girl who didn't get the boy. Neither of these ideas have anything to do with the novel I'm working on, but my time spent in them has unlocked something inside my chest.
I'm remembering that each word doesn't have to be perfect when it goes on the page. That I can leave my sentences bloody and flailing and that maybe they look better that way. Writing practice is helping me develop my voice and it's reminding me to trust it.
Now, if you're like me, you're thinking, "I do not want to waste fifteen minutes (or whatever) writing something I'm not going to use." We're all so worried about losing time. But I'm finding that those fifteen minutes get the wheels in my brain moving. They churn up the kind of creativity I can't find when I'm in a hurry and they give my fingers the freedom to do their thing.
Tell me, do you ever give yourself permission to JUST WRITE? Ever thought about starting your writing day with a little practice?