Sunday, November 07, 2010

Are you a Mull-It-Over Writer?

I find that I like to mull things over. I’m the kind of person who, before saying something important to anyone, will rehearse over and over exactly what I am going to say. I even rehearse what I will say on the phone or what I will write in an email. I work over the words in my head until I get them exactly how I want them.
I do the same previewing with my bigger writing projects. Sometimes I will think for days or months about a particular chapter or even an idea for an entire novel. Then, when I finally sit down to write, it flows easily and quickly from my brain through my fingers and onto the blank page. It looks easy, but I’ve already spent hours and hours deciding in my head what I will write and how I will write it. 
The downside of this kind of writing is that I am really not so good at writing on the fly. I was in a workshop once where the presenter gave us a writing prompt and then gave us about 15 minutes to write a short story. I was completely frozen. I had to write something, but I had no time to mull the words over before I wrote them down. After staring into space for several minutes, I finally wrote something down, and it was probably okay, but I know it was not my best work.
I think it’s probably a lot like playing the piano. Some people are really good at sight-reading and can sit down and play a piece of music they’ve never heard or seen before. Others have to practice and practice before their playing sounds decent. But, I found in my limited piano-playing career that the ability to sight read well can be learned. You just have to do it often. I’m sure the same is true of writing.
 It would help me to do more off-the-cuff writing. It would really come in handy in situations like the one I described above.
So, which are you: a mull-it-over author or an off-the-cuff author? Whichever you are, stretch your writing muscles by practicing the other way of writing for a change.


Wendy Swore said...

I'm a mull it over writer too. At the retreat this week was the first time I'd ever really given myself permission to just write fast without thinking. Grammar=terrible
Ideas=not bad!

NoSurfGirl said...

I'm both, I think. I will plan a story to death, and force myself through writer's block, and sometimes I"ll go for a few weeks without writing more, and during my quiet moments the story "stews." I'll leap out of the bathtub and run in my towel to the computer to write down the genius idea I got to solve a plot-problem. Or while in the car, the light bulb will appear over my head at a stoplight and I'll be frantically scribbling character names, plot fixes, or ideas for stories on the palm of my hand :)

I don't think anyone finds story prompts easy! they excersize an important writing skill, though... being able to tap into that creativity when we need to, not just when the moment suits us. Gosh, I have had to learn this lesson well. I have 6 kids age 8 and under and very limited time to write!

But I completely identify with you.

♥katherine said...

In real-life situations I think I prefer to mull things over. I took a creative writing course once though that required us to write in a particular style every week. I liked this (although I don't know if a week really counts as writing on the fly) because the added pressure makes sure that I at least get something written. And then I can always go back and edit things as many times as I want to. It certainly helps me when I have writer's block to at least sit down and write something, even if I don't think it's very good.

Michael Knudsen said...

If I mull too much, I fall asleep, and seldom do my dreams have anything to do with my WIP. Mulling while writing or journaling, that's what works out best for me.