The object is set before the mind, either in reality, as in sketching (before a landscape or teacup or old face) or is set in the memory wherein it becomes the sketching from memory of a definite image-object.
The quote above is from the Essentials of Spontaneous Prose by Jack Kerouac. It’s a quick and interesting read and I encourage you to take a look.
I’m quoting it here because I think I may have left an impression in my last post on assembly line blogging that I want to abandon writing from inspiration when the muse strikes. Not at all.
I believe very much in Kerouac’s spontaneous prose and free writing, and wanted to share how I see it fitting into the assembly line.
If spontaneous prose is a new term do check out the link above and also this one on Kerouac’s belief and technique in modern prose. Both will take only a minute or two of your time. They’ll probably resonate more if you’re familiar with Kerouac’s writing or the writing of The Beats in general, but even without familiarity I think both are worth a look.
My Take On Spontaneous Prose
I’ve adapted Kerouac’s advice for my own writing a bit. For me the idea is to imagine the scene you’re going to write about before putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. You want to immerse yourself in every aspect of the scene, much the way method actors might immerse themselves into a character.
For example say you’re working on a story and the action takes place in the bedroom of the protagonist. Before writing, close your eyes and picture the room. Imagine the characters in the room. Visualize the scene playing out in your mind without words. Look around and notice the furniture. See the crack in the wall where the plaster is pulling away and notice where the paintings hang.
Watch the characters play out the scene on their own and only after you’ve let them have their say and paid attention to every detail in that room do you begin to write.
If you need to edit don’t change words. Go back and picture the scene again, with a fresh perspective if necessary, and rewrite full passages from scratch. Let the actual writing be spontaneous, but only after you’re so familiar with what you’re writing about that it easily flows.
A Factory Approach To Spontaneous Writing
The idea of a factory may seem at odds with spontaneity, but I don’t envision the assembly line replacing the entire process of writing, rather the part about setting up the scene.
- When the mood, muse, or inspiration strikes just go with it. Don’t hold back. Let it flow
- When the inspiration isn’t there use an assembly line process to set the scene. Brainstorm ideas (the scenes). Research to develop the idea (Picture the scene better). Identify the essence of your idea (Why is the scene important to the story).
For the most part, we’re not creating art with our blogs, though we could be depending on our topics. More likely we have specific goals in mind and spontaneous prose will often go its own way. In general that’s good, but it may ignore our goals.
A preconceived title, links to external and internal resources, notes, and an outline can help reign in the muse a bit and bring him around to our specific goals for writing a post.
I can’t speak for you, but the muse doesn’t always play by my rules. He has his own rules. Sometimes he stays away longer than I like and sometimes he takes my ideas and turns them into something different, both good and bad.
I’m amazed at how many posts he’s written for me that have turned out to be the ones that most resonated with everyone. I don’t want to inhibit the muse at all. I do want to continue to write from inspiration.
The assembly line process is a way for me to invite the muse for writing with the idea (scene) already well entrenched.
If the muse hits on a topic that isn’t on the assembly line, great. I’ll let him go and follow along for the ride. But when the muse is absent the assembly line can still be producing. I hope it will allow me to set the scene in as much detail as possible so I’m ready when the inspiration strikes.
If you liked this post, consider buying my book Design Fundamentals