Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Writing? Just Do It EVERY Morning.

This past couple of weeks, I have mainly been distracted from writing by my reading ABOUT writing.

If you are already an expert writer then you really need go no further here, except perhaps to gloat (although in my experience 'expert' writers are a very kind and generous bunch; and liberal with their enthusiasm and encouragement for the novice). This is just me exploring the core of getting-going-with writing and some advice I've come across recently that I think will help me move on in my endeaendeavour. If you are teetering anywhere near the precipice of starting to think about yourself as a writer then you may find the following useful.

Becoming A Writer by Dorothea Brande is a text oft mentioned in meanderings on creative writings. First published in 1934, Brande urges would-be writers to write in the morning, every morning and before anything else. I'm thinking Ms Brande didn't have cats because I have peace to do absolutely nothing upon waking until mine have been fed but, following this feline life saving task, this is an exercise I used previously which really worked. Within a week of doing this everyday, writing before anything (except feeding cats), I find my writing picks up. I become able to write more in the same amount of time and I more quickly scroll beyond the dull dribbles of the previous day into something with a little more potential; a glimmer of imagination emerges and makes me more eager to engage further in the exercise.

Just as the repetitions of star jumps make footballers fitter for footballing; doing writing makes writers better at writing. For Brande, the morning writing exercise is all about cultivating a writer's temperament. Contrary to what can be summised from the profiles of many of my Twitter writing friends, this does not have anything to do with how many cups of coffee you drink and at what point in the day it is appropriate to drink wine. The writer's temperament of which Brande speaks is one that is more 'versatile, sympathetic and studious' than others. Genius, she assures us, 'can be taught'.

This feeds seamlessly into our desire to read about writing and study the craft of writing, a number of texts on which I have already found very useful but, Brande warns, attention to excavating our inner writer from this 'crafting' perspective will do little unless we also take time to develop our personality as a writer.

The biggest threat to the emergent writer is not the technicalities of writing but in having the confidence to actually write at all. The morning writing exercise helps us to stumble through all the demons and doubts to a place where we feel safe to have a go.

Try it:

- Write for 20 minutes every morning.
- Write before you do ANYTHING if at all possible and certainly write before reading or talking to anyone - you are trying to catch yourself writing before you inner critic wakes up!
- Keep writing for the FULL 20 minutes. DO NOT STOP, Ms Brande is VERY strict about this. Write ANYTHING but keep writing.
- Don't read back what you have written - you're building fluency and stamina as a writer not penning the next prize winner.
- Do notice how, after even a week or so, you are able to write more in this time.

I've heard/read of this so often in the past few years and having tried it, I know it works. I'm trying it again (I can't believe I ever stopped!) and this time I've bought the book! If there was a t-shirt I'd buy that too. Dorothea Brande's original text is an absolute joy, a no-nonsense read which has the potential to push your productivity as a writer ... maybe even as far as publishing.


  1. Interesting. I was about to posit that cats and writing are incompatible. Get rid of the cats and the Booker will follow. However, a quick google produced this: http://www.buzzfeed.com/summeranne/30-renowned-authors-inspired-by-cats

  2. 'Get rid of the cats' indeed!!!
    I love the link. JP Sartre too - maybe I'm in good company xxx