Give yourself permission to write

keepwordscominggraphic1A few years ago I attended New York Literary Agent Donald Maass’s one-day workshop, “Writing the Breakout Novel,” hosted by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.

Maass would give us some kind of writing prompt, then he would instruct, “Now, write!” and we would all drop our gazes to our paper or keyboards and do just that.  At one point, he made a joke of it.  He said, “Now, write!” and all our heads bobbed to our papers.  Then he said, “Stop writing” and we all looked up. Then he said, “Now write!” Half of the writers dropped their heads down dutifully to their papers, while the other half caught on to his tactic and laughed.  After strutting around a little (he does an amusing Elvis impersonation), he asked us why we had to rely on him to give ourselves permission to write.

Why do the words flow so much more smoothly when we’re instructed to write?  Why can’t we summon up that free flow ourselves when we face a new scene or challenging re-write session?

Two parts discipline and one part inspiration, I’m guessing.  It could also be the hum of creativity that swirls when a room is filled with writers.  I’ve discovered a strategy to harness the energy and creativity and keep the words coming.  Borrowing from Anne Randolph’s “Soup Kitchen Writing,” we started a “soupies” writing group from willing members of our on-line critique group.  Every Thursday we meet from 6 to 9 pm, enjoy some soup and conversation for a half hour, and write for the remaining time.

This communal writing environment gives us permission to write.  We enjoy our soup, then someone sets a one-hour alarm, and we write.  It’s amazing how quickly the alarm goes off.  We take a five minute break and set the alarm again.  After it goes off the second time, we visit briefly and take whatever time we have left to wrap up.

One writer friend has added her own twist to the concept: coffee instead of soup.

The menu isn’t important.  The camaraderie is.

If distractions, free-floating anxiety, or lack of focus have been taking a toll on your writing productivity, try a soup night.  Or coffee night.  Or ice cream night. Invite some writer friends, gather at the kitchen table with your laptops and watch your pages fill up!



Filed under The Writing Life

2 responses to “Give yourself permission to write

  1. What a great idea to write for an hour. At Soup Kitchen Writing also on Thursday pm we have soup, use examples from literature and write for shorter amounts of time. We will try the 1 hr write and see what happens.

    We also write on Tuesday and Wednesday morning. Let me know if you would like to join us.

  2. redplume

    Thanks, Anne! And thanks for the inspiration.

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