The Grunt Phase of Writing

21 Feb

In the last couple years, I’ve come to realize that I thrive most during the tweaking phase of the creative process.  I’m talking about the phase after the initial set-up, when there are concrete elements to play with, add upon, and tweak.  

For writers of original works, there is nothing more foreboding than a blank screen.  Like God himself, we must create something out of thin air; and speaking for myself: I ‘aint no God, so it’s tough.  In fact, I now refer to the beginning of every creative project as the grunt phase. 

What helps me most during the grunt phase is to avoid perfectionism.  The beginning stage of creativity is not the time to edit; you simply need to put your nose to the grindstone and write away.  Then, once there is something to tweak, you can dive more deeply into the creative process and make it better.

The important thing is to give yourself something to work with, just churn it out and trust that you will make it much, much better.  You will feel much better about yourself, rather than get stuck in front of a blank screen thinking of the perfect idea.



6 Responses to “The Grunt Phase of Writing”

  1. KJ February 23, 2012 at 9:23 am #

    Perfectionism is a horrible word. Something has to be found to defeat the insecurity that is curled up and waiting to strike as you begin a new project. I support the Vomit Draft. Essentially, you’re just spewing your first draft. At the end it will likely be worthless. Count on it. But it’s purpose is to silence your inner critic who lives to paralyze you. You’ve taken away his greatest strength in this first draft because it will suck and he’s been telling you you and your idea suck all along. Once you’ve silenced him you can get down to the business of actually working. You’ll still have a first draft to work with and you’ll be able to do so without any furthering hectoring and debasement from him.

    • Christopher February 23, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

      “The Vomit Draft” – love it!

  2. Nan February 21, 2012 at 8:13 am #

    Yes! So true. Perfectionism creates isolation. Not a creative place to be. Thanks for the wonderful insights, Chris.

    • Christopher February 21, 2012 at 11:20 am #

      Never thought of it in terms of “isolation,” Nan – so true. I was trapped by perfectionism for so darn long, it’s actually sad; isolated from my potential, indeed….

  3. Sajib February 21, 2012 at 3:00 am #

    I think the most difficult task is to write fiction — be it for a book or a screen.

    • Christopher February 21, 2012 at 8:07 am #

      I totally agree with you, in large part, Sajib. Fiction, in essence, is creating something out of thin air, which is extremely difficult. That’s why it helps when the writer has something to inspire them, to get them going…

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