We were out to dinner with friends this weekend at a lovely restaurant. As part of the restaurant décor, there were plaques on the wall with inspirational sayings: ‘dance as though no one is watching’, ‘sing as though no one is listening’, ‘live as ifthere is no tomorrow’. Cheesy, yes, but I got to thinking (there was a line for the ladies’ room; what else was I going to do?) that they needed a fourth plaque that says ‘write as though no one is reading’. This is what Jenny Crusie and other writers call writing the DLD (don’t look down) or truck (you can drive a truck through the holes in this sucker!) draft, both of which are better names for it than the DATNOIW draft.
As writers, we often get the advice – heck, we often give the advice – to get our butts in the chair and just write. But here’s the thing: we have trouble remembering we’re writers. We get to thinking we’re editors, wordsmiths, fancy perfection-seeking, word-tweaking, paragraph-agonizing masters of our writing universe. And that has a tendency to get in the way of just writing. So then we need tricks, and sometimes chocolate and often wine, but first, tricks.
One of the tricks I’ve used to good effect to turn off my very chatter inner editor is to write while she’s still sleeping. I set my alarm for zero dark thirty (whatever that translates to in your part of the world), and when the obnoxious buzzing drags me out of dreamland, I sit up, grab my computer or pen and paper off the bedside table, and start writing. Before my husband can complain about the alarm, before I can infuse my blood with desperately needed caffeine, even before I feed the fur babies, I write down words in (fingers crossed!) reasonably cohesive sentences.
Usually I’ll have put a few minutes of thought into it the previous night, jotting down some notes about the scene I’ll write, maybe even a goal for the protagonist and a motivation for the antagonist, writerly stuff like that. And I’ll go to sleep with those thoughts in my head, hoping to do dream work that will inspire the words to flow out of me in fully formed perfection in the morning. Then I dream of cats in tutus (there are neither cats nor tutus in my book, in case you’re wondering), and I wake up too bleary-eyed to read the notes I left for myself, but I WRITE.
That’s the thing about dancing as though no one is watching. That advice isn’t just referring to the outside world. It’s also talking about YOU. No watching yourself in the mirror, no glancing down to check your foot position or adjust your tutu (hey, did you steal that tutu from my cat?.) Anyway, sometimes you need to write or dance or sing like no one, including you, is aware you’re doing it.
If you’re a writer, what tricks do you use to turn off your internal editor? If you’re a creative type of another sort, what wonderful things will you create this week without looking down?
Dear Readers: I’m sharing this old post with you because I’m currently out of the loop dealing with a family emergency (all is now well, but I’m still out of town). I’ll be back next week to finish up my posts on Justified, and to talk about how I’ve applied what I learned from watching that awesome series to my WIPs. In the meantime, keep dancing! – Nancy