Effortless Writing

Earlier this year I moved house.  Five months later, most of my books are stashed away in storage but I did keep my creative writing books to hand – and have finally managed to unpack them and get them onto the bookshelves by my desk.  I couldn’t resist stopping to flick through them, my eye catching on an underlined phrase here or a scribbled note in a margin there.  

writer at dawnI particularly loved rediscovering Dorothea Brande’s iconic Becoming A Writer a book which, according to Hilary Mantel is possibly the only ‘how to’ book a writer will ever need.  My eye snagged on this section, ‘Effortless Writing’, in which she advises capitalising on writing time when ‘the unconscious is in the ascendant’:

The best way to do this is to rise half an hour, or a full hour, earlier than you customarily rise.  Just as soon as you can – and without talking, without reading the morning’s paper, without picking up the book you laid aside the night before – begin to write.

As it happens, this is my own writing pattern: my best time for writing is from 6am for at least an hour (some days that’s all I have, some days I can return to it later).  While the process feels far from ‘effortless’, I love the simplicity Brande advocates here.  No distractions, no negotiation; just get on with it.

What you are actually doing is training yourself, in the twilight zone between sleep and the full waking state, simply to write.Brande

But I sort of see what she means by ‘effortless’: make the process a ritual, and you reduce effort because you won’t have to worry about when to write.  You put the energy into the writing itself.*

As Brande says, ‘all you need to concern yourself with is the mere performance of the exercise.’  Sound advice, I think for any writer, creative or artist who does daily battle with resistance and procrastination.


*For more on writing habits, have a read of this post from Write Track (www.write-track.co.uk) and check out James Clear on establishing habits generally

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