Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Garbage Writing

One thing I seldom talk about around here is that at one point I actually wanted to become a writer. It is, in fact, the original reason why I started blogging. I wanted to utilize this medium in order to cultivate my writing skills, but shortly into my blogging venture I identified that my heart isn't into writing. I've since then decided to dedicate myself to the culinary field, so writing now serves the purpose of education: honing my skills for expression and introspection.

While writing may never again play a huge role in my plans as it did in the past, I still entertain ways in which I can improve myself. I can't just allow myself to publish any old thing; I always try to bring forth a finish product worthy of your finite time, and yet I feel inadequate always. However developed I may be, there is still an incredible amount of progress I could make, particularly in the realm of my thinking about writing.

How to go about thinking about a piece has been quite perplexing. If I'm aiming to write a substantial number of posts on a consistent basis then I can't allow myself to dwell on any one piece for too long, but then again I also can't just allow myself to jump into the construction of a post at any time. It's difficult to determine when I can start writing and when I should take to roughing an outline, but by encountering problems I do eventually come up with a solution. In the past I talked about a particular technique of writing outlines and then letting them sit for 24 hours or more to see if I can get a fresh perspective on my previous thinking, much like writing a rough draft and letting a day pass before the editing phase. I've recently come up with another technique: Writing articles I know I'm going to destroy.

On occasion I run into the unique problem where I cannot figure what to do in regards to a piece. Whatever efforts I might take in drawing up an outline fails me, and simply jumping into the writing leads to resistance as well. It's most prominent in my writing my chocolate reviews, where an outline is nearly useless since it contributes little to how I should describe something and jumping right in leaves me at a loss for descriptive words. The chocolate reviews are particularly unique is that I already know what I want to say, it's the issue of style that trips me. Sometimes I write whole reviews and other types of articles without ever intending to publish them, and I often never do. The odd thing is that I find that writing unpublishable articles tends to be the solution to my writer's block. Where outlining fails, it seems I can often solve my problems by just going ahead and writing the article to completion before I immediately rewrite the whole thing from scratch and destroy the previous copy.

This solution is a matter of figuring out how to do something right by identifying what's wrong, much like how you can fix a car by identifying what's broken. The reason why I have such a hard time coming up with an outline or a good first copy is not only because I don't have a good conception of what I want my piece to be like, but also because I have no conception of what a bad piece would look like. In my head, the problem is just a matter of not being as to write like I would want to, not that I think I would write something bad. In my brainstorming I don't actually consider my ideas bad, it's that I'm having a hard time coming up with ideas at all. When I force myself to write the piece regardless of my preparation I then understand exactly what is wrong with my writing, and by having a perspective on what's wrong I am much more able to determine what would actually constitute the right direction. In other words, I can't figure out which path is the right one to take until I know I've taken the wrong one. To have a conception that something is wrong or not good is to have an implicit conception that something else known would be good.

It might seem like a waste a time considering how long some writing pieces can be -- I once deleted an article I worked on over three hours straight just moments after finishing it -- but if you're really stopped in your thinking this could do well to force a current of thought. Inevitably it is a frustrating technique to employ since you know what you're writing is bad all while you're writing it and that you intend on destroying it shortly after completing it, maybe without even scrutinizing its errors first (I usually just delete the article without looking at it ever again). It would do well to keep in mind that the ultimate aim IS to eventually come out with a polished product: The garbage writing is but a step in the process. It will at first, of course, seem like an impediment to your efforts, as if you were somehow deliberately wasting time, but if you exert to actually include it into your efforts on a regular basis it could easily come to be viewed as something that contributes to your time rather than detracts from it.

Now that I think of it, maybe I ought to take more care to deliberately incorporate garbage writing into my practices. In the past I've been using this technique entirely by accident where I'll write a piece out of frustration in the belief that I must write something, even if I know in advance it's destined to be trashed. In many cases this technique has worked its magic outside of my awareness, where I'll write a bad article thinking I'm going to settle for its poor quality and publish it, but will quickly abandon it because I suddenly have ideas for a much better rewrite. More thinking needs to be done, but maybe from now on I'll incorporate garbage writing as a deliberate step in my writing process.

It may not be a technique guaranteed to work, but it does add to the reservoir of practices we can pick and choose from. One can never have too much variety in that area.

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