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Tip Tuesday #87

Tip Tuesday is a recurring feature where blog readers send in tips for fellow writers. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

Today I have a neat tip from Paula Kay McLaughlin who blogs at Write Now. Give her a visit. Among other great posts on writing, Paula features a querying writer and their project each Tuesday for her Writer Spotlight series.

I stumbled upon a useful writing tool around midnight several months back. I was totally exhausted, but all these thoughts and visions swirled in my head that weren’t formed yet. If I waited, if I went to bed and tried to find them again in the morning, they would be as gone as my younger size-four figure. So I let my eye lids close and kept my fingers tapping.

At first it was strange not to see the letters appear on the screen in front of me, to trust that I was hitting the correct keys. When I summoned the strength to lift my lids and peek I figured I’d find: amdla knfsl;d khr aweyra;k. But there were readable, full sentences there so I closed my eyes again.

What I discovered was by turning off one sense others became more acute. Duh, right? We all know this. Ray Charles is a heck of a musician and some may argue much of it has to do with the fact he can’t see.

But back to writing, this is what closing my eyes and writing did for me and what it might do for you too:
  • It stopped me from hitting backspace or delete, from re-working that previous sentence, from finding the just-right-word that may end up getting deleted anyway, from rereading that earlier line, that earlier chapter . . . Instead it pushed me forward, which, if you’re like me, forward in a first draft is a good thing, yes? Second and third drafts are where that other stuff comes in. In short, it freed that part of my mind, my thinking, so I could stop obsessing over the stuff that didn’t matter—yet.
  • Writing with my eyes closed allowed me to see, hear, and feel what my characters were seeing, hearing, and feeling (emotionally) with more clarity.
  • When inside my head I could better look around the room, the woods, the world my character was in and notice even more of the details.
So there it is, for what it’s worth. A stumbled upon technique for writing certain scenes, for first drafts, and for when you’re really, really tired and another cup of coffee will not help. Wear ear-plugs too, what the heck, why not? And if you’re sitting at your favorite coffee shop—go on, close your eyes. Sure other patrons will look at you strange—but it’s not like you’ll see them, right?

- Paula

*Warning: This technique is not recommended while sitting on the stern of a boat in stormy weather, while in the wilderness with chocolate (or honey) in your snack bag, or while your kids are downstairs—alone—preparing a Mother’s or Father’s Day breakfast that may involve sharp objects, bickering, matches or hot surfaces.


Thermocline said...

Writing with my eyes closed has been one of the techniques I've used to push through the #*&^!@$ writer's block I've been experiencing. It doesn't always create big leaps in thought for me, but it has helped with small moments ... sometimes just enough to get through the next sentence.

I'd definitely recommend Paula's Tip to anyone who hasn't tried it.

Steve MC said...

Great tip. It's like you're transcribing the dream playing out in your head.

P.S. Love the warning.

kathrynjankowski said...

Interesting idea. I'll close my eyes when imagining a scene, but haven't tried typing that way. Thanks for the tip!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great tip Paula. I would have never thought of it. I type all the time so bet I could type something other than gibberish with my eyes closed.

And everyone, check out Paula's weekly author interviews. They are fascinating. It was a great idea of Paula's to start them.

Chelsey said...

Interesting. I'll try it. I love getting new writing techniques.

Jenna Cooper said...

It's funny, I do this when I'm writing papers for school! Maybe it's to block out the horrible of my first drafts.
I'll have to try it for my creative writing though. Interesting tip, thanks Paula!

Elana Johnson said...

Wow, writing with your eyes closed! I so need to try this.

Kimberly Krey said...

I love this tip! I find myself doing that occasionally, when I'm really trying to tap into - like she says - the world I'm creating and the characters in it. Such a great thing to keep in mind! And anything that can keep my pesky editing brain from getting in the way of the creative process is a good thing! :)

Jenna Blake Morris said...

Awesome tip. I've never heard of it before, but I'll definitely try it -- and I love how you described the whole "percolating thoughts" scenario.

Stephsco said...

Wild! I will definitely try this. I got the home keys down.

Paula said...

Wow, so other people do this, too!!?? Awesome, I'm not totally crazy after all.

And Natalie, thanks for mentioning my Writer Spotlight series.

Thanks guys.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Wow, what great ideas. I'd have to wear a sleeping mask to make sure I keep my eyes closed though. I love the ear plug idea too!

Lisa Nowak said...

Actually, I would get a line of gibberish. (It took me three tries to type 'actually' correctly.) But I still think this is a great idea. I'll have to remember to try it the next time I'm stuck.

Anonymous said...

This is a GREAT idea and especially for me because I'm weak in the area of describing sensory oriented things. I think this will help a lot. Thanks!

Ishta Mercurio said...

This is a great tip! I love the idea of effectively shutting down our censors and editors. Neat idea!