A to Z: Quickly, Quietly

I used to need complete silence to write.  No music, no TV, no chatty neighbors in the apartment upstairs.  Just me, and the air, and the words.

Then I started trying to fast-draft, to move through my first draft at the rate of 1000+ words a day, which was an unheard-of pace for me.  In order to do that, I had to get out of my head a little bit.  Find a way to turn my inner editor off and just let the words come, judgment-free.

Two things helped me do that: a timer, and NOISE.

If I'm listening to music when I'm writing, it takes me everso slightly out of my critical brain - apparently I can't concentrate both on writing and self-editing and listening to the music.  Combine that with a timer and a word count goal and I'm good to go.

Is it great writing?  Nope, but it's certainly edit-able.  When I wrote with my critical brain on high alert, my writing was definitely better the first time out.  It was also taking FOR.EV.ER.  And I'd spend hours agonizing over scenes that might not even make it to the final cut.  Good writing, but completely inefficient process.

So I've traded quiet for quick, and it works for me.  What about you?  What's your process look like?

One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)


  1. Jam all the words down on the page so that the idea exists then walk away...far away...think think think....then come back, rip up the paper and start again with all the ideas lined up in the proper order. I can't tell you how many times I have written something in no particular order; middle, beginning, end, more middle...but the idea was there.

  2. This is actually a great idea, Jes, and one that I need to use, beause it sounds just like me!

    I need to try your "quantity now / quality in later edit" method because my "quality now" method is constricted by a lack of available time and self-defeating inner judgmental crap, and as a result my current output is bupkis.

  3. I've always thought that I couldn't write to music (as an adult, anyway - as a teen I couldn't do anything without music!), but now I'm wondering if I should try a little distraction in order to move forward. Interesting idea!

  4. Finishing is just so fucking hard. I say whatever works.

  5. Nice post Jessica. I find relaxing music helps my creative process, but quiet is the best way to focus. You're in the Qs of the A-Z post! Great job

    - Maurice Mitchell
    The Geek Twins | Film Sketchr
    @thegeektwins | @mauricem1972

  6. Good call on trying another way.

    When editing I need quiet to hear the rhythm of the lines, but when rough drafting I have a few CDs and playlists that keep me moving, just like when I used to jog.

    That helps you focus on the feeling and the emotional momentum of the piece, that spark that brings it to life, which you can never really recapture or add in later when editing.

  7. I'm not a dedicated writer, but I can understand what you mean. I just read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and she described a similar process, I think she called it "shitty first drafts." Get your thoughts on paper, keep writing, and then edit. I imagine that's when you need silence.

  8. Howdy, friend! I write early in the morning, but before I arise, I start going over scenarios in my mind, then I am awake and ready to compose. Usually around 4 or 4:30 a.m. I love writing, and it must be written. :) Nice to meetcha', Gotta go now and visit some other great people. Best regards to you. Ruby aka Grammy

  9. I need quiet. I can block out building noises from next door and faint traffic roars, but inside my own space, I need quiet. Can't get on with music. I guess my mind can only cope with one thing at a time. Simple--that's me. I can write fast and rely on editing later. That's the time to add beautiful words and phrasing. I'm constantly amazed at what I've written. Blog on!