Last updated on June 23, 2020
Imagine this! You’re sitting at your desk looking out a window that faces a beautiful escarpment while you hold your coffee sipping and ruminating on your next sentence. You put the cup down and begin to write. A minute later you look down at your monitor and give a nod of approval. Now, cup in hand you look out the window once again.
This is not what a successful writer does. Note, I said “Successful” writer and not just writer. Writing this way doesn’t work because it prompts you to continuously question every word you write.
What is the right way to write?
Here it is: You sit down and write non-stop for a specific amount of time. Key phrase here is “NON-STOP”. When you do this two things happen that greatly improve your writing.
- First, your output is greatly enhanced. Wonder why some gifted writers can knock out a novel in two or three months? A novel may be comprised on average of about 100,000 words. This requires a lot of typing!
- Secondly, and most importantly, your brain works on two cerebral hemispheres: the left, and the right hemisphere. In her book, “Writing on both sides of the brain”, Henriette Klauser describes the processes that make for optimal writing. She describes the tasks taken on by the left and right sides of your brain. In brief, the right side of the brain is responsible for your creative juices. The left side of your brain is the critical, logical part of your mind.
The tasks of left and right hemispheres
In her book Klauser outlines the best method for writing. This has been a saving grace for yours truly. For instance, I wrote this article in exactly (I began writing at 2:51 PM and finished at 3:04 pm) 13 minutes. For the sake of demonstration I’m electing not to go back and edit although I really should. (Follow up: I caved in later when I read the article and found some serious errors. So I ended up making some corrections).
The method to paraphrase is:
- Write, as fast as you can without stopping. It helps to turn off your spellcheck at this point as you really shouldn’t be interrupted.
- Once your writing is complete you now begin the important task to edit and re-write.
Why does this work? Your brain devotes a particular task to different hemispheres. Your creative side is the right side. When you are engaged in the right side activity you tend to be at your best creative edge. The problem is that you’re stifling your logical critical side and that can result in a number of outcomes including nonsensical phrases. It also results in grammatical and spelling errors.
But that’s okay. Once you get the writing out…take a break. Come back to your work at some other time with the sole purpose of editing. Now, you are fully left brain engaged. This is where you edit the crap out of your work.
TIP: Something that has worked for my writing: I usually approach a new writing task by reviewing and editing the previous days work. When I do this there are times where I will go off a tangent and re-write whole new sections. This is fine and is natural. When you see yourself writing fast (right brain) keep yourself engaged and mentally switch off your critical left side.