Unfreezing the Writers Muscle

This is my submission for the Insecure Writers’ Support Group for February. There’ve been a few blogs I’ve came across through IWSG in the last two months that I’ve not kept up with, so if I gave the impression I’d be reading your blog regularly but haven’t, it’s a matter of bad time management, not me trying to manipulate you!
Ray Bradbury had a rule, a piece of advice he offered, that an aspiring writer should write a new short story to completion every week, and then send it to publishers, and move on. It’s something I’ve tried (in an adapted form) and will be trying to get back to soon.
While I’m not familiar with all his work, I like what I’ve read. He combines a kind of stylised, 50s Americana with out-there weirdness – Twin Peaks long before Twin Peaks was aired. The Martian Chronicles has a really striking dreamlike quality on top of all that as well.
But there are elements to his stories that still strike me as goofy years after I last read them. One of the short stories in The Martian Chronicles has alien characters named Mr. Aaaaaa, Mr Bbbbbb, and Mr. Cccccc. (I may have the amount of letters wrong.) As far as I remember, these were meant to be their actual names, not their attempts to settle into human society.
But, overall, despite the goofiness, the stories were still hugely emotionally powerful, enough that I was more than willing to overlook this weakness.
I still think that story in particular could have done with another draft, but the idea that it’s better to get something down on paper quickly, flaws and all, is a good one.
There’s something I’m trying to get into the habit of doing, which I think is known as a ‘brain dump’.(That sounds a little to me like it should be linked to a bowel movement, so I may have the name wrong.)
The idea, essentially, is to give yourself a time limit, and get everything flowing round your head down on paper, all the rough ideas, so you can seperate and develop them later, and free yourself of the worry of having to hang onto a great idea for later, to enable you to concentrate on the writing task in hand. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m trying to get into a habit of writing 1,000 words in some form or another every single day. The problem is that the words often come out in drabs, maybe a hundred words over the course of two hours while I half pay attention to other things in the background.
But the concept behind the brain dump is to get everything down quickly, everything in the writer’s head, with no intention of using any of it. If there’s anything there that can be used, that’s a bonus, but the idea is about clearing the head.
. is great for this. It’s a web app that is set up with a target, changeable according to your own preferences for word length and time, and will start deleting what you’ve already written if you don’t carry on writing.
So, in order to safeguard what you’ve already got, you have to stay in motion, rather than becoming paralysed by self-consciousness.
The aim of a brain dump (as far as I understand it) is to both clear the head of the ideas floating around in there that aren’t useful at the moment, and to get the writing muscles loosened up ahead of the proper writing.
But it can also be a good method of getting a first draft down.
A few times I’ve just rambled on for five hundred or so words, and been surprised to find that I’ve actually got a pretty decent first draft on the screen in front of me. It almost always means needing to rearrange paragraphs and ideas so it flows better, but it’s surprising how often a decent first draft can be written that quickly.
Does anyone have more experience in this than me? Any tips to add?

13 thoughts on “Unfreezing the Writers Muscle”

  1. 1,000 words a day can be quite a challenge, especially if you have other responsibilities. I think you’re going about it the right way, not expecting gold, just laying a foundation that may lead to it.

    Good luck with your goals! May your muse keep you busy.


  2. Sounds like you’re doing good to me. 1,000 words a day is excellent. I do that in spurts, not on an every single day basis. And, I time myself with a timer so I know I have to just keep on writing until the buzzer buzzes and I find I don’t get too lost in my own thoughts. I never think about the negative talk at all when I do this, so Write or Die should be even more effective at it.


    1. Thanks!

      It’s really still a target that I’m hitting intermittedly rather than consistently getting a thousand, but I’m moving in that direction.

      I’ve tried writing with a buzzer before as well, but I find that the fear of losing what I already have is also a help to keep me moving!


    1. It can be surprising how good the end product is using WoD.

      It’s almost always a case of something mis-shapen and rough, but something to work with straight away, rather than eking out the perfect phrases one by one over a period of hours.


  3. I think I could write 1,000 words per day without too much difficulty. The Write or Die app description made me break out in hives (not really). That would be a lot of pressure. It’s like playing Pictionary with that little sand hourglass threatening you. Yikes!


  4. I think I could write 1,000 words per day without too much difficulty. The Write or Die app description made me break out in hives (not really). That would be a lot of pressure. It’s like playing Pictionary with that little sand hourglass threatening you. Yikes!


    1. I think I’m the other way round – sit me down with a blank sheet of paper, and I could spend hours choosing words one by one, but I’m better thumping out very rough first drafts this way!


    1. Yeah, I tend to be awful when I’ve got nothing but a few vague and mis-shapen ideas in my head, ideas that I’m not sure how to whip into shape. It’s definitely a great way to get things started off!


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