Saturday, December 16

Hate Writing? You Were Taught Wrong

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Your teachers taught you to hate writing. It’s a simple fact. The way American teachers teach you to write is to think about sentence structure, paragraph structure, grammar and punctuation as you write. You start out with your idea and outline all of things you want to cover. Make sure it’s in the correct order! Then you start writing your paragraphs. You need a topic sentence, some detail then close it or lead into the next paragraph with the last sentence. As you write, you are supposed to think about the sentence structure and how the punctuation is placed.

Another thing that you’re taught to do wrong as you are writing is to research. If you don’t know a fact that you want to include in your writing sample, you stop and go look it up. Make sure to keep your thoughts linear!

The big problem with this is it stifles the creative side of your brain. The right hemisphere of your brain is generally the one that is associated with creativity and spontaneity. It does not think in a linear function. While the left hemisphere of your brain goes in a linear direction and is great for editing what your right hemisphere comes up with. 

The school system teaches you to try and use both halves of your brain at the exact time while you are trying to write. What happens is that your right hemisphere wants to jump around and make lots of associations and is not going in a linear direction. Your left hemisphere is trying to make sure the writing is linear and makes sense in a linear fashion. There is a struggle between your left and right brain. School teaches your left brain how to win the struggle… you end up writing linearly, thinking linearly, making sure your sentences are grammatically correct. Quite frankly, this takes the joy out of writing.

Let your right hemisphere of your brain go wild. Take the writing process in two steps. First, write down the words that make up the main topic you are going to write about. Don’t try to get it right. Don’t try to make it catchy. Just a simple phrase or word will do.

Next, set a timer for 10 minutes. If you are writing long articles or books, you can free write for longer periods of time. But, the first time you try this, just try it for 10 minutes. You should adjust your amount of time to your goal of writing and take into consideration how long you can naturally free write.

Start writing. Just write everything that comes to mind about the topic or story you want to tell. Don’t worry if you start in the middle or at the end. Don’t worry if you don’t have the correct facts. Just write, and write, and write. Don’t stop to think about or put in punctuation. Don’t worry about your spelling. Don’t worry if your sentence doesn’t make a bit of sense. As you’re writing, don’t look back – at the previous paragraph, at the previous sentence or even the previous word.

If you’re mind goes “blank”, keep writing. You can write “blah, blah, blah” or anything else that’s coming into your mind to fill the time. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your mind will come up with something else to write. It doesn’t like to be in that state, so it will jump off into a new thought. Then just continue to write.

When the timer goes off or you naturally drift off and can’t write any more, then stop. Put your pencils down. Save your file. Put it away. Creative writing is done for that session.

Your first draft is complete. This is a true first draft that you would never show anyone! Be prepared to scrap the whole thing, but not yet. Don’t look at your draft for 24 hours or until you have slept. When you come back to your document, your mind will be fresh.

Now editing begins. Let the left hemisphere of your brain take over. Read through what you wrote and start piecing it together in the story you want to tell. Fix the grammar and punctuation. Throw things out entirely if they don’t make sense. Go look up those facts and put them in. Put together your second draft that will now make sense to others. This still doesn’t need to be your final draft, you can iterate on these processes until you have a piece of work that you are proud of.

At first, free writing will be difficult. It’s been beaten out of us. Try it a couple of times and see how it goes. You may just find that writing is fun again! You may also find that your writing is more creative and emotional, thus more fun to read by others.

Here is an example of 10 minutes of free writing on the topic of free writing.  You can see that the left brain was already taking over at the beginning because I had been thinking about writing this article, and it wasn’t until a few minutes in that the right brain kicked in more.  The second version is what you just read above.

“Free Writing

You can now blame it on the school system, the reason you hate writing is because you were taught to do it incorrectly. What? All those years of grammar and punctuation  and it was all wring? Yes, let me just tell you is , the teachers messed up, they made it so you would hate writing from the start. They stifled your creativity and then blamed you for not being able to write someinthing interesting. Well I’m here to tell you that there is a way to make writing fun again.

First off you have to understand the difference between writing and editing. With eding. Let’s start with ediing. The first thing about editing is that is is a  linera process. You go through your work or someone else’s and you find all those pesky grammar mistakes and punctionation problems. This isn’t exacatly the most fun thing in the world to do unless you are really weird.

The second thing is writing, you need to just write, let the juices flow. Don’t stop. Don’t stop for anything! Just put in your punctiona later, leave in your spelling mistakes, just write whatever come s to your mind. Start out by having a topic, which you’ll either have assigned or you’ve decided to write about and then set a timer for 10 minutes. If you’re writing something much much longer, you may want to write about that in a longer session. But start with 10 minutes if theis is the first time you’ve done free writing on your own. For ten minutes, just write, don’t look up facts, don’t look up fibures, don’t look up grammar,don’t backspace, don’t look at the time. That’s what the timer is for . just write. Keep rwring ing even if you don’t know what to writie , and you can fine that your sentuences may not make a lot of sense at first but that’s ok. You’re not editing! You’re not going back and reading the sentence before the one you’re writing or the one of or even the word before the word you are currently writing. No one’s going to see this draft.

If you think this is a waste of time, it’s not. This is all about being creating and letting your brain make leaps and bounds and associations . everything will come together later, but you don’t want to be hindered by the thought of trying to do it right

Doing it right well, what am I going to say here, I thought of something and now it’s gone. Yes, got it now, a first draft is truly a first draft.  It’s not one you’re going to share, it’snot one you want to look at when you’re done with your finiwhed produect, it is the firxt draf t -0 the ccreative draft. So let your left hemishper of your brain (or is it is right, gotta lokk that up) and take over and just let the words spill out of you.

Then put away your writing. Don’t look at it. Don’t think about it (very much at least) for at least 24 hours, or overnight. Then pull out your writing againa dn sit down to edit. Go through and make the linear associations. Take out things that simply don’t make sense. Put in all the grammar and punctuation corrections and make it a really nice, decent second draft. The second draft is the “so called “frist draft” that you show people. It’s the first draft that makes sense to someone other than you.  You look up those facts you didn’t know and just put in placeholders, you figure out what that essay or poem or whatever it is should be. Your emotion and creativity will be captured the first time through and you clean it up later. End. 10 minutes is up.”

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