It’s easier than doing a push-up, faster than washing the car, and 15 times more fun than you would ever guess!
Let’s face it, life gets busy, and the last thing you want to do after a hard day’s work is spend hours trying to write a story or article. But what if writing wasn’t so hard? What if you could train yourself to write better without working up a sweat? More importantly, what if there was a way to improve your writing skills while fuelling material for future stories and articles at the same time? Well guess what?! There is!
All you need is:
- 1 red pen
- 1 pen that isn’t red.
- 1 small stack of plain lined paper
- A timer, alarm, or clock
Step one: Nonsense Equals Excellence.
Grab yourself a pen and paper. That’s right! I just told you to step away from your keyboard! For this exercise you’re not going to need it, because computers make it too easy for you to cheat. With a pen and paper there’s no relying on spellcheck or the accidental pressing of the backspace key. The point in this exercise is to work on your ability to have fun and depend on your own wits, not your computer’s ability to correct you or make you second-guess yourself.
Now that you have your medieval tools in hand, start writing! You’re not allowed to think or fidget or stop writing for even a second. Let yourself write freely for five minutes. Everything that comes to mind will pour onto your paper, like a raging waterfall to an unsuspecting stream. It doesn’t have to make any degree of sense; in fact, it shouldn’t!If at any time you find yourself running short of material, just repeat the last word you wrote over and over again until something new pops up. Most importantly, do not stop before the five minutes are up! You may need two or three pieces of paper, depending on how randomly your mind can function.
Step two: Massacre of the ‘Little’ Red Pen
Now that you’ve made a mess on your paper, it’s time to clean it up. Put down your free-writing pen and pick up the evil red one. You’re going to read through what you’ve written and correct every last mistake that you’ve made. Keep in mind that you’re not trying to make sense of what you’ve written. Doing that would be a useless endeavour.
What you’re really doing is taking each sentence as if it was the only line on the entire piece of paper. Look for things like misspelled and confused words, run-ons, and incomplete thoughts. If you manage to read through and correct every last error before the five minutes are up, read it again! You’re bound to find something that you missed the first time over.
Step three: Isolate and Extract
Your mind’s a funny thing. When you write without purpose, there’s no telling what you’ll find. Buried deep within your abstract words you can find great new ideas that you can use for future projects, like stories or articles and even poetry!
This time around you’re going to re-read what you’ve written over and over and over again for five whole minutes. Study everything on your pages carefully and look for three sentences that tickle your fancy. When you’ve found the top three, transfer them onto a different page and label them with the date. Think of it as an index of ideas which you can use to help you through dry spells, like writer’s block.
Bonus step: Up the Bar!
Once per week, look through your Index of Ideas and select one out of the bunch. Instead of free-writing for five minutes, use this time to further explore that idea. The catch would be that the three steps you follow on any other day still apply: write for five, edit for five, and in the end you will extract three more sentences that stand out. When you add the three new ideas to your Index of Ideas, add them as sub-ideas to the main idea that you wrote about. The point in this is to develop your single idea, expand on it, and find out if it will be something you can actually write about.
For best results, and to track your progress, don’t throw out anything! Keep your free-writing pages, edits and ideas in a folder or binder. This can be both handy and amusing. As your folder expands, you’ll notice that the amount of red ink on your pages will decrease, and the amount of repeated words, from when your brain farted, reduce dramatically. Best of all, re-reading them several months down the road might help you find even more ideas that you missed before.