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Introduction to Noodling for Writers


A New Thing I do to Increase Output and Quality

I’m not sure where I got the idea. What I’m sharing may be a Hodge-Podge of ideas. It could be it’s based on one idea I read about where the author has a conversation with himself.

My version of ‘noodling” is another matter. It is a matter of clearing the sludge that collects over the day and dumping it all out onto paper. This is a method I started using a long time ago. I called it “stream of consciousness” then. That is incorrect. So now I’m calling it noodling, and I’ll explain why.

A Bit About Noodling

First a little about “noodling”. If you’re a guitar player, noodling is banging around on the guitar until something worthwhile comes out. You can see this in practice in the new Beatles documentary Let It Be. If you’re a fisherman, noodling is fishing with your hands. Sticking your hand in shallow waters up under tree roots and grabbing out a fish. No thanks.

Lately I have found the more I write, the better the quality becomes. That naturally happens over time. But I write in a free-write journal daily for 20 minutes. This is where my short stories start. It’s structured and completely by the seat of my pants. Structured? I start a story and work on it for 20 minutes a day until finished, or I’m done with it (too long, need a change, it sucks). Yet, it takes time to get to the creative stuff, before I am “in the flow”.

The more I write on my book, the more creative it gets. Again, I’m semi-limited to an hour to work on it every day. And it still takes time to get to the creative stuff.

The Fog of Life

Ever wander around feeling like you’re in a fog? Or you sit down to work on something but you can’t focus because you’re thinking of dinner, email, Facebook, 15 other projects, or something else you’d rather be doing, whatever THAT is?

Even if you’re a chronic meditator… I’m sure you still have this problem. You can’t tell me a random thought doesn’t go through the head of a skilled Buddhist monk every now and again.

Some may call this a “brain dump”. Others (like me) may mistakenly call it “stream of consciousness” writing. Regardless, it’s neither of those things.

What IS Noodling Then?

Finally, the recipe… (if you’ve ever searched for a recipe online, you’ll get the joke).

Let’s do an exercise and we’ll learn through action. Grab a notebook and a pencil or pen. Oh, sorry… let me explain. You HAVE to do the whole pencil/pen and paper thing. Typing this on the computer doesn’t work. You need that physical connection from thought to paper.

A word of warning: your hand is going to ache. Like any muscle, over time you’ll get used to it.

Armed with pen and paper, put the pencil on the top line. When I say GO write EVERY word that comes to mind. And I mean every. E-V-E-R-Y word. Regardless of content, ridiculousness, repetition, spelling, etc.

Write until you get to the end of the page… then… turn the page… and write until you reach the end of the page… then STOP! That will be enough for now.

Ok… and… GO!

Now, take 5 minutes for yourself. Then, go write (or whatever it is you have to focus on).

Let me know how it worked out for you in the comments. Try this for a week, 2-3 times per day. Then come back and let me know how it worked for you.

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Like stories in the Fantasy Sword & Sorcery realm? Check out my current work in progress Darkness of the Northern Sky.

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