My mentor, Ron Carlson, once told me that there are two types of writers—gushers and ekers. The gushers are the ones who write really quickly, producing a lot of words, but also producing a lot of crap writing. On the other side are the ekers—they agonize over each word. It takes forever, but they don’t write a lot of useless drafts. If you can’t tell from my personality, I am a gusher. On a good writing day I can maybe write five or six pages in about two hours. (Compare this to my good friend MJ who writes a paragraph in a day!) My gushing sometimes feels like automatic writing. I am going so fast that I don’t know what the heck I am writing sometimes. Then, the next day, I read through what I have written and see if there is anything usable in there. (Sometimes there is; sometimes there’s not.)
I wrote Leaving Atlanta and Silver Sparrow pretty much by hand. This is because I feel the computer helps me write even faster. In addition, in a fit of pique, I can hit two keys and delete a day’s work. With handwriting, I may often get frustrated and then I just turn over a new page in my notebook. The next day when I calm down, I read it over and something I find something there that I like.
I am thinking to write my fourth novel on a manual typewriter. A pink Smith Corona from the 1950s to be exact. The idea is to sort of shock my system and make me more mindful of what I am doing on a word-by-word level. The typewriter is a little rusty so I have to take it to be refurbished, but I am getting ready to clickety-clack my way through.
(And the typewriter is not connected to the internet. The twitter is my weakness.)
Writers, I recommend that you try to break yourself out of your ordinary routine if you feel like you need a jump start. Try writing with a new tool, a new location, or even just switch up the time of day that you are writing. I think of it like exercise. You can reach a plateau with your current routine and need to vary your workout and work some different muscles. Try it and let me know how it works.