The Secret Weapon

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Do you have a secret weapon?

This is the thing you do when you’re stuck.  Might be you’re stuck at work.  Stuck on a project.  Stuck on a problem of some sort.  Stuck in your creative process.  Stuck in your routine.

Do you have a secret weapon you pull out and turn on the thing sticking you?  Do you have that inner bazooka, that cannon inside, which you can unleash on the matter at hand in your final desperation and, like a B-movie action hero (for example, Bruce “Whatchoo Talkin’ ‘Bout” Willis in that stinkfest Die Hard), blast your way out of any jam?

It might be meditation.  It might be a cup of tea; special blend, not the ordinary, off-the-shelf stuff.  It might be yoga.  It might be aerobics, hiking, bike riding.  It might be writing with a different computer, a different software package, a typewriter, a pad and pencil.  It might be a brisk walk.  It might be hard rock instead of classical.  It might be a mind map.  It could be anything – anything at all.  But whatever it is, it breaks through the ice pack holding you back like the prow of a great ship crashing through the Arctic Sea, getting you into open water.  You crash through the heart of the storm and into the open sky again to rocket at mach two toward your goal.

Do you have a secret weapon?

One of the secret weapons I’ve become acquainted with, but haven’t personally deployed, is free writing.  Free writing, if you don’t know, is where you sit down and just … start writing.  No editing allowed, of any kind.  If you’re working on a computer, use a program with no spell check utility.  No grammar checking, either.  You don’t even have to use proper punctuation and capitalization if you don’t want.  You just write.  You might pick a subject before you begin, but there aren’t a lot of rules to it.  So you sit and give yourself an allotted amount of time – say, ten or fifteen minutes.  Write, don’t stop, don’t think.  Just write.

Supposedly, it breaks all sorts of things loose for writers.  I know one blogger who swears by it.  And on the surface, it sounds great.  I just haven’t tried it yet.

Do you have a secret weapon?  What’s yours?


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25 thoughts on “The Secret Weapon

  1. Free writing (never heard the term before) is all I do. Everything is written in paragraph format, no caps, no punctuation. I guess it’s how I think how my brain works. In fragments. And I don’t write with a pencil and paper well. I write mostly on the computer. I see and write in pictures. For me it’s like painting with a keyboard and mouse.

    I can relate to that. I like working on the computer better too. It’s faster for one, but I love the tactile method of involving all my fingers in the process. And when I can see the words forming one letter at a time on the screen it’s just a better fit for the way my brain works. Also, my handwriting sucks.

  2. Oh, could kill Microsoft word when I write poetry. They capitalize everything, makes me crazy. They obviously never heard about free writing. (pun intended)

    Nothing’s free with Microsoft, right? 😉 Why don’t you go download Roughdraft 3.0? GREAT program for writers. Or you can use one of the many full-screen text editors available, like Write Monkey, Dark Room, JDarkRoom, or Write Room (for Mac users).

    • Does Roughdraft muck up your computer? I thought livewriter was going to eat my computer.

      Live Writer is harmless and wonderful! Roughdraft is easy and gentle, too. And terrific for writers. 🙂

      • Sara, LiveWriter is strictly a blogging client, not a text editor. It enables you to blog offline and tweak your posts – add pictures and links and all that – and then post it all when you’re done. I use it all the time and swear by it. If you’re having problems with it, maybe I can help? And if not, I follow one of the developers and can show you how to get in touch with him – he’s always good about helping people too. 🙂

  3. I guess I am lucky. I have multiple personalities. So when one twits out on me, I have another, and I let them free, only to guide them into writing. It’s why I have some really disturbing pieces that I write, and then some pieces that no one understands where I pull them out from. In a sense, it is free writing, but the core of me just cannot let anything go unedited.

    The actual process of free writing, I’ve recently learned, might be to focus on one object, let your mind roam to the tangential aspects of thought until it tires of babbling, then returns to the object. If something golden turns up in that, you can always use it. You never know. But yeah — no editing, no punctuation or capitalization (optional, btw) … I’d go nuts. But the process is supposed to be awesome.

  4. Why haven’t you tried freewriting yet? I have done it, but it never reached “secret weapon” status. More like, “mildly amusing.”

    I don’t know. Everywhere I turn I’m running into it, like that stupid and embarrassing one-night stand person you keep bumping into at the mall the following week.

    There’s nothing that works every time. I try writing in different mediums, reading, fluffy fiction, reading how-to-write books, talking about my WIP with someone, and putting it out of my mind. If I think of any more, I’ll let you know.

    Awesome. I especially like the last one. Procrastination — now that’s MY secret weapon!

    • Not procrastination! Putting it out of your mind is different. Hiatus, maybe I should say, where you’re not allowed to think about it at all. You don’t seem to be doing that.

      No, no … not that. But I’ve got procrastination down pat. No brownie points for that? 😀

  5. A free writing exercise ten years ago gave me my first novel, but I wouldn’t call it a secret weapon. I don’t think I have such a weapon. When I’m stuck, I read a book or watch a movie that I know parks a desire to create something — even if the movie/book has nothing to do with what I’m working on. Or I go online and listen to interviews with writers I love — Neil Gaiman, Russell T Davies, or Gregory Maguire for instance.

    That I’m afraid is all I’ve got.

    Starting to look like no one has a secret weapon after all. There goes my nefarious plan to become a writing peer with you amazing writers by stealing your secrets. *Sigh*

  6. I always thought that I would love to write but I think that fear has always stopped me. For some reason writing my blogs are different. I can usually write the posts with no problems because it is like writing comments on other people’s blogs. I just write the way I think and talk and if I have a subject I feel strongly about I have no problem. Probably (always) not grammatically correct and punctuation – fuhgetaboutit!

    But to actually sit in front of a computer screen or face a pad and pencil? No way, no how is it going to happen. Tried free writing once and couldn’t even start it because I felt it had to BE something like a story is. I feel that if I set words to paper it has to actually say something and I can’t write word one.

    I think this is part of why I haven’t tried it either. I have to get past my presuppositions of what writing is first.

    I want to try to actually write something even if it is just to see if I can do it but I don’t have a clue as to how to start and make myself take that first step, even if it is a baby step. 🙂

    Well, a great book to work with is called “Jump Start: How To Write From Everyday Life” by Robert Wolf. GREAT stuff in there. 🙂

  7. I’ve tried “free writing” but it doesn’t always do the trick. What I find most liberating is to combine drawing and writing. It doesn’t have to be a picture of something. Just drawing random lines (not parallel) on a page and colouring in some of the spaces between them with different colours is a good start. Then I fill in the empty spaces with words or sentences. It gets me out of Linear Lock and into a more creative mode.

    Hey, that’s pretty cool. A nice way for me to combine writing and drawing too. Although I’d probably be tempted to draw a picture. My brain just works that way.

  8. My secret weapon is a deadline. I am the ultimate procrastinator, and will always, without fail, wait until the last minute and then bang something out, usually my best work. (This does not apply to writing, BTW, since I am not “trying” to write at the moment. But it applies to everything else.) If I don’t have a deadline attached to something, I’m sunk. Even if it’s a self-imposed deadline for a strange reason, it seems to work for me. One example: I wanted to refinish and paint my kitchen walls and cabinets for three years. We invited my parents and friends over for New Year’s Eve three days before the big night. AHA! Deadline! In three days, I had completely repainted the walls, removed, sanded and repainted the kitchen cabinets, attached the hardware, and on New Year’s Eve, an hour before the guests were to arrive, my hubby hung the cabinets by candlelight during a power failure. It HAD to be done by the time the guests had arrived–even though they never did because we ended up without power all night. My husband thinks I am insane, btw, but is happy he didn’t have to do any of it. 🙂

    Well … except the hanging by candlelight. Heh. 😉

    I used to beat myself up over it, but I don’t anymore. It’s just the way I roll, and it works for me.

    I think it’s a pretty good idea. I think, IIRC, I’ve tried this once or twice and it generally has a good outcome. Maybe it’s time to go back to it. 🙂

    • Oh please. The hanging by candlelight was a cinch. Trust me. He got off easy 🙂
      Let me know if the deadline works for you. If you want, I’ll give you one!

      LOL! Volunteering to kick me in the hindquarters? I think you’ll have to take a number for that job!

  9. I would have to say mine is deep breathing. I do like a tai chai program where I deep breathe for 5 to 10 minutes and then stretch. After that I am calm and refocused, it usually helps me to work through complex stuff at work…try it maybe it works for ya…zman sends

    Will do, Zman. Deep breathing has long been known to have physiological and psychological benefits from the increased oxygen exchange it causes. 🙂

    • Cake. Ice cream. It’s all good to me! 🙂

      As I get older I’m becoming more sensitive to lactose. So I’ll pass on the ice cream, thanks. 😉

  10. Hey Mr. Knyt, I have been so sad today remembering Eli, but every few minutes here comes another hilarious email about ice cream, deadlines, and sarcasm. Darc stirs up the pot and I spend my mourning day laughing, laughing quietly, tho laughing nevertheless. Thanks all. Anyone have a little yorkie or shitzu male about 5-8 lbs they don’t want who is a pain the behind. All piss and vinegar so he won’t let Emily beat him up too much? Emily and I will take him. And he’ll have a great home.

    I’m glad you found some joy in your sorrow, Sara. 🙂

  11. I can’t tell you exactly what my secret weapon is but the ladies call me “tripod”

    Only good for propping something else up, huh? It’s okay, Al, at least we understand you. 😉

  12. I taught writing for a long time using journaling and free writing. I never found it to be effective for teaching writing to those for whom it didn’t come naturally, and I loathed the editing process that arose from the idiot idea that punc., spelling, usage, grammar, sentence structure didn’t matter. They do matter because at some point revision and editing come up and revising/editing a mess makes writing tedious instead of fun.

    Most of the people I see suggesting it aren’t suggesting it be done as part of the writing of your piece. They’re mostly saying do it to sort of “warm up”, “loosen up” and get the creative juices flowing. Something might break loose on your WIP or a novel or story may be born from it, but mostly it’s just an exercise separate and distinct from the writing of an actual project. I don’t think I’d want my free writing in the middle of my WIP either.

  13. I definetly use a form of free writing when I get stuck. I start by thinking back over the day, or past few days, and start writing about anything interesting enough to hold my attention for 5 seconds. If that doesn’t get things rolling I turn on the idiot box for 5 minutes and it is sure to develop into a rant of some sort. Rants are good, they are like little bread crumbs to things you are passionate about.

    That’s an interesting analogy. I’ll have to remember that. “Breadcrumbs to things you are passionate about.” Niiiice. 🙂 Thanks, Jaymie.

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