Writing the Midwest: On unconventional techniques and approaches


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“Writing the Midwest” is a recurring series featuring writing advice from today’s most prolific authors. Whether it’s dealing with writer’s block, knowing when a piece is finished, or how and where to find inspiration, we’re delighted to present to you the very best guidance to help you and your writing. You can find links to the authors’ full interviews below.

On unconventional techniques and approaches:
Dan PopeWhen the coffee shop closes for the evening, I have another, very odd, method of composition. At home, I turn on my piece-of-crap 2005 computer and call up a blank Word file. Then I turn OFF the monitor and take my keyboard (with a 30-foot extension) into the next room. By going into the next room, I can avoid (1) the awful humming of the computer and (2) the spectral appearance of the words on the screen and the concomitant temptation to change or erase said words. Then at some point, maybe an hour later, I’ll go back to the computer and push print and examine the words that spew forth. There will be many misspellings, of course. I’ll mark up those pages and send them off to that same typist [an individual, who types that material into his or her computer for a fee, then emails it to me for corrections, additions, etc.] for proper word-processing. You’d think that this would be a huge waste of time, but try it! Try sitting in a room with just a keyboard and your thoughts. I find it to be freeing and fruitful. If I had the screen on, I would be able to see what I was typing, of course, and I would be tempted to mess up a good sentence or paragraph. Instead, I just keep going forward. Is this weird? I’d be surprised if there is anyone else in the same hemisphere who works this way, with his or her screen off. I’m willing to admit that this is all very strange and ridiculous behavior.
Halee Kirkwood: I keep a notebook near me whenever I read. If a writer is doing something I admire, I attempt to pin down how exactly they astonished me, and then make a writing prompt for myself based on the techniques I noticed, whether that be on the micro or macro level. I don’t always make it to the prompt immediately, but I know it is there for me to try if I ever do hit writer’s block. I’ve also consulted my humble Tarot deck for inspiration on plot or theme or character development—there’s a wonderful book out there called The Creative Tarot by Jessa Crispin that revolutionized the relationship between creativity and intuition for me. Highly recommend!

Ira Sukrungruang: I’ll let you in on a secret: sometimes, if I’m really into my writing, I need to have something over my head. Like a hoodie, or a blanket, or if I’m home, I pull my shirt over my head and look at the screen though the head hole. Don’t mess with me then. The outside world is white noise. My brain is on the page.


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