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LJ Idol Home Game Week 1: Winding Up
cap, captain miss america
Starting to write is a ritual unto itself. When do you start? Can you just bring up a document and start typing, or do you stare at the blank screen for a while, intimidated by all that whiteness, unsure of how to fill it up?

In elementary school, I had an art teacher who taught me an important lesson: Never leave any white space.

"I don't want to see any white on your paper," he always said.

In those days, we were using fingerpaints and crayons, glitter and markers. It was as easy as picking another color to add to our abstract and fantastic masterpieces.

In writing, in English classes, longer was always better. More words per sentence! More descriptive! Jam in those adjectives, those adverbs, till your paragraphs overflow and fill the page! No white space!

You get older, and you learn that white space can be your friend as much as it can be your enemy. As an artist, you start to learn that negative spaces can be as important to your composition as positive spaces. As a writer, you learn to snip away at your words, you learn that a near-empty page with a few sparse words of dialogue can be as beautiful to a reader as a verbose and lengthy passage.

Maybe even more beautiful.

I find that writing is a lot like sports. You need to stretch before running a mile; you need to warm up before swimming laps. Getting ready to write can be just as important as the act of writing. Writing exercises can, in fact, make you a better writer.

A lot of the time, when I'm staring at that daunting blank page, when I don't know what to do next-- or what to do first, let alone after, and after, and after-- it helps to do a few exercises. Maybe a character study-- who am I writing about? Why not throw them into a scene, to get to know them better? Even automatic writing can make you start thinking about the composition of your vocabulary:

The lurid spider say perching on the monument. Brilliantly, there were no words for thrifty exercise such as the one taken in by the poached pear. Was there any violence in the taqueria? Never on Thursdays!

What does engaging in automatic writing say about your word choice, the formation of your sentences, the ideas at the front of your mind? That in and of itself can get the juices flowing, can help foment an idea when you don't have one-- or think you don't have one, because really, you do, always there, always bubbling below the surface.

What are some of the things you do to warm up your writing muscles?

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As fourzoas wrote in one of her late entries last season, I've learned that sometimes, you have to do the introduction last. I don't need to start at the beginning of a piece when brainstorming. In general, I don't find totally automatic writing very helpful, but if I can start in with an idea, and just let the ideas flow forward from there - well it's very easy to cut and paste and edit from that point forward. It's also very helpful for determining whether an idea is worth sticking with or whether it will fizzle out where it starts. Writing short drabbles is often good for getting my writing muscles warm, but in truth, I know that I am much wordier than that. :)

(Edited for typo.)

Edited at 2010-11-03 07:55 pm (UTC)

LJ rambles help me a bit. Not always, but more often than a lot of other things. It's in many ways similar to automatic writing.

Though, thankfully, LJIdol has begun again so I'll be drowning in writing prompts presently. Woo!

'Cause, seriously, prompts are awesome but I rarely find really good ones on my own.

I am finding that I over-think first. In the case of this week, I am skimming other entries to see what directions people are going in, and wondering what direction I should go in, which topic I should pick, etc.

I'll probably go back to one of my first thoughts, unless something that grabs me and won't let me go comes up.

I find it really hard to try to force a topic I'm not really invested in...like this week, I write 3 or 4 entries before writing one that I was OK with -- and the other 3-4 entries were really terrible because I wasn't 100% invested.

I like your ideas of character studies...I think I'll try that next time!

YAY for home game entries...AND for white space. :)

In the words of Nike, just do it. I've found that the best idea I have for Idol is the first one. Once I know what I'm going to write about, I play around a little in my head and by the time it gets to actual writing, the piece is usually pretty much fully formed. I tend to write quickly and can churn out a piece at very short notice, which is why I often get asked to write at last minute because editors know that I can deliver.

In some ways I wish I were someone that could draft and redraft and edit and play around because I'm sure there's fun to be had that way, but I'm pretty much a splurge and leave it as you find it kind of gal.

I'm one of those people who has to handwrite first. And often rewrite again by hand before typing up. I can't compose anything from scratch that's longer than, say, this journal entry, on my computer. I seem to need to be able to see the whole piece at once, with five or six papers spread out side by side on the floor. To be able to scribble on things and change words and circle bits and cross out things and then write in red IGNORE CROSS OUT!!!1 I can always tell straight away, even after a year, when something had to be typed right off the bat. It's just never as good, because I lose 75% of my editing process that way.

To warm up, I write short scenes. Usually playing back and forth with my girlfriend - role playing by email across the room which is so dorky, but so much fun. :D

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