Daily Writing Tip 34 of 100, The Open-ended Writing Process

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – The Open-ended Writing Process

Source – Writing With Power by Peter Elbow

The open-ended writing process is at the opposite extreme from the direct writing process. It is a way to bring to birth an unknown, unthought-of piece of writing-a piece of writing that is not yet in you. It is a technique for thinking, seeing, and feeling new things. This process invites maximum chaos and disorientation. You have to be willing to nurse something through many stages over a long period of time and to put up with not knowing where you are going. Thus it is a process that can change you, not just your words.
***
To begin the sea voyage, do a nonstop freewriting that starts from wherever you happen to be. Mosyt often you just start with a thought or a feeling or a memory that seems for some reason important to you. But perhaps you have something in mind for a possible piece of writing: perhaps you have some ideas for an essay; or certain characters or event are getting ready to make a story. You can also start by describing what you wish you could end up with. Realize of course that you probably won’t. Just start writing
***
Keep writing for at least ten or twenty or thirty minutes, depending on how much material and energy you come up with. You have to write long enough to get tired and get past what’s on the top of your mind. But not so long that you start pausing in the midst of your writing.
Then stop, sit back, be quiet, and bring all that writing to a point. That is, by reading back or just thinking back over it, find the center or focus or point of those words and write it down in a sentence.
***
Now repeat the cycle.

What great advice!

Sometimes I write a story with the entire thing preplanned in my mind (or in an outline on paper) and sometimes I start out staring at that blank page with no idea where I’m going. I have to admit, the unknown voyage, for me, usually ends up stranded on the rocks somewhere, taking on water fast – about to sink. I like how this teacher seems to systematize the usystemic – to organize the chaos.

I like the idea of, “start by describing what you wish you could end up with.” Of course the next sentence is frightening.

I’m going to have to study his technique and see how it works for me. At any rate, it will give me a dollop of badly-needed confidence.

Maybe you would want to do the same.

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