Three Principles for Pantsers
Some writers are what we call “pantsers,” people who write by the seat of their pants, who sit down and look at a blank page and begin filling it in without thinking about it, letting the words flow through them. I suspect that the people who talk about “the muse” are almost invariably pantsers, who feel as though they become a conduit, as though the content comes from outside themselves.
It doesn’t, of course. That happy flow comes from the inside rather than the outside. It comes from being in touch with the wellsprings of your creativity and not just harvesting from that source but feeding and tending it with the devoted care it deserves. So here’s three things you can do to keep the springs flowing.
Feed your creative spirit, and do it daily. Don’t take in an unadulterated diet of just one medium, but mix it up a little — some reading, some music, some visual splendor, maybe even a little cooking or some other art. Make things for the joy of it, without thinking about whether or not they’re saleable.
Clear the decks for writing. When you sit down to write, make it a time when you can give it your undivided attention. Don’t let the rest of the world intrude or at least minimize its intrusions as you can: a “am writing” sign on your door, a set of headphones, your phone on silent. For me this is why coffeeshop writing has always been productive — there are no demands or worse, distractions, from my household. I prepare myself for writing: I stretch, I make sure I have coffee or tea, I close the door and do not emerge until I’ve done at least a couple of half-hour sprints.
Don’t worry about order. You don’t have to write in chronological order, starting with page one and going on till the end. It’s okay to be so excited about a specific scene or scenes that you want to write them first. Do it and make them the tentpoles of your narrative, fitting in the other scenes around them. Write in the order that works for you and know that the important thing is to get your first draft down. Once you have that, you can begin the difficult but always necessary task of revision, a task that is easier post than pre-production for me.
And write. That’s always the best step for me, putting pen to paper and seeing what happens, because it’s different every time, but it’s always wonderful.