Writing with the Screen Off

Here’s an interesting experiment that will show you two things: you can draft without revising, and you can shut up your internal critic. This is not a way to compose, but a demonstration for yourself that you only do once.

Wait until you’re about to write something where little is at stake. Decide in general what you want to say, or write a plan. Note the time, and turn the screen off or cover it up so you can’t see it. Then type the piece as fast as you can. You have to watch your fingers to make sure they’re aligned correctly on the keys, so you don’t end up with something like this: ;olr yjod. When you think you’ve typed the whole thing, stop, turn on the screen, and note the time.

You will have typed this draft faster than you ever have before, quicker than you’ve ever imagined. And here’s the shocking part, the experience of everyone who’s ever tried this experiment. What you wrote will be better than what you normally turn in.

How can that be? Because you couldn’t see the screen, your Internal Critic couldn’t either. So he couldn’t criticize what you were writing and distract you. He couldn’t tell you how incompetent you are, or how everybody knows you’re a fraud. He couldn’t damage your confidence and make you slow and timid. He couldn’t make you revise and revise and revise  even though you were just typing a draft.

You will have just succeeded in drafting without revising.

Published in: on January 3, 2009 at 11:23 am  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. 1. How do I take from the experiment and learn? You dont tell us what to do I to shut up the internal critic.
    2. Use of “he” (or she) as the internal critic may be problematic — can you reword?
    3. The experiment does not show how to draft without revising — even however good it is, it will still need revising. Again, how do we take the experiment and do something with it?

  2. Good idea. I am going to try this.

  3. Amen. One of the worst traps a writer falls into is revising as he goes. Its particularly deadly for longer pieces that take several days to write. First of all, it’s a time waster. And on pieces that take several days, the tendencey is to start each writing session by revising what you’ve already done before creating anything new. As a result, the beginning of along piece might be rewritten ten times and the bottom only once, creating uneven work.

  4. How liberating and exciting to write like this! I’ve been caught in the trap of constant revision for most of my career. I really feel like this exercise might change all of the that. How simple, and genius. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us all.

  5. Thanks, Zeva. Take a look at http://tinyurl.com/ylg6n8p for some other tips on revision. Don

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