As the title suggests, you really need to just write down what the wild mind dictates in a rough draft. Natalie Goldberg talks about this all the time in her books (I just love her. She's my writing guru!). There will be plenty of time to tidy things up in the various editing stages that you go through as a writer. To begin with you want the muse to sit on your shoulder, unfettered by that annoying little voice that says, "Oooh, do you really want to write that? I think you missed a comma. That's just sloppy!" At this point you need to give your inner critic a sleeping pill or something, just to get some peace and quiet while you work. Let your mind roam the great expanses of time and creative space. Punctuation and spelling is something you can fix later. It is the straightened tie within an already well turned out ensemble.
You will also be amazed by what you can come up with, when you open new doors in the mind without the fear that you shouldn't go there. Nothing is sacred (except writing about that bully who stepped on your foot in the 3rd grade and using his real name. Sure it would be fun to embarrass him now and divulge his current street address, but I wouldn't recommend it and neither would a lawyer.) These are your own caverns to explore. Whether you are writing memoir, fiction or non-fiction - the emotional source of the self has a lot to say. Ignore the inner critic who will tell you that your ears are too big and that the opening sentence is clearly just a boring cliché, and listen to the inner thinker who ponders things for hours while you sleep. This creative type will be happy to take you on a trip to the realm of the fanciful and the infinitely more interesting world of fiction.
In Francine Prose's riveting book, Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those who Want to Write Them, she quotes a passage from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. In one of the opening chapters called "Words", she deals with this notion of freeing oneself of being incorrect, in order to find the perfect image that you want to convey to your reader. (Gee, this book is perfect for practically every writer I know. I think I'll buy 10 copies and send them out next year as Christmas gifts! - seriously).
"There are at least two places in which words are, as with deferential palms, used in ways that seem surprising, even incorrect, but absolutely right. It's not exactly a 'shadow' that the wind casts over the sea, or the breeze over the rug, but we know what the writer means; there's no better way to describe it. Nor is there a more vivid way to create the image than the seeming improbability of the two women slowly ballooning back to earth without ever having left their couch." (p.28)
Freeing yourself of the fear of being wrong or incorrect, allows for more freedom in the writing itself. You can wander into places without restraint; you can keep running until the last image is captured. Then you can go back and insert all of the missed commas and upper case letters. Part of correcting awkward language is allowing yourself to feel awkward in the first place. Then you can let your characters stand tall in the fields of correct grammar. Another tip for these writing practice sessions is to have a very fast, free flowing pen. Let it rip!
June 29, 2007