When it comes to encouraging and even enhancing flow in your creative writing process, the 10-Minute-Vent may become your most important tool. It’s the exercise I use to launch my writing days. Writer friends and clients who try it report immediate results: it is a powerful way to steer clear of self-sabotage, procrastination, the destructive inner critic, and creative block.
All writers hear voices. We usually welcome those belonging to our characters and the narrators of our stories; but there are some we do not welcome, and, in fact, may fear. I call these internal voices my “cast of hundreds”, knowing some of them wish me well, while others are less easily identifiable as allies. (Those berating, belligerent, lacerating voices, for instance.) Writer and teacher Anne Lamott describes this seemingly nonstop inner-audio stream as Radio KFKD. If you try to silence it, try to force the knob OFF, the volume will probably grow louder–perhaps so loud and filled with dissonance it momentarily blocks creative flow. It can definitely make you a little bit nuts.
If you can’t turn it off, what can you do?
Respectfully and firmly direct and employ it.
OPEN A FILE OR SET YOUR PEN TO A CLEAN PAGE. I have a folder I’ve titled VENT on my desktop.
WRITE DOWN THE DATE AND THE TIME. This is vital because you will write for exactly 10 minutes; if you begin at 9:35 a.m., you will finish at 9:45 a.m.
WRITE A SALUTATION. I use “Greetings to Self”; a salutation encourages a sense of ritual.
OPEN THE FLOOR TO YOUR INTERNAL VOICES. Invite them “to step up to the plate and vent!” Uncensored. For TEN MINUTES. No more no less at a sitting. At first you will hear from the loudest, pushiest, and hairiest: the driven know-it-all that yells “coulda’, woulda’, shoulda’!, and the perfectionist voice that cries “why bother, we suck, it’s nothing but crap!” Listen closely for quieter voices–perhaps a part of you that dreads the idea, much less the act, of creative risk and exposure. Some are whispers so faint they seem ghostly. Listen and write–without judging. Ask questions and write. If the voices quiet down, invite your most shy voice to speak up. As you stay with the Vent, using it daily if possible, you will become increasingly familiar with your internal cast of hundreds. In addition to hurling insults and scrambling your brain with chatter, the voices may offer surprising insights. You will also begin to glean a sense of clarity, of something deeper going on with all that energy. Ultimately you will discover ways to allow ‘it’ a constructive voice.
CLOSE THE VENT. When the day’s 10-Minute-Vent is up, thank the voices for sharing and tell them firmly that you do not want to hear from them again until the next vent. Sign off. (I close with a mantra that reminds me that I have just set solid boundaries.)
DON’T HESITATE TO VENT AGAIN. On days when internal voices are especially active–Radio KFKD on all channels–repeat the “VENT” exercise. I do find that as long as I’m venting on a regular basis, once a day is enough.
CHANGE GEARS. To transition effortlessly from the completed 10-Minute-Vent to your day’s writing, try a dedication. If it feels right, dedicate the day’s work to friends, family, a just cause, your sense of a higher power…to whatever opens you to offer your writing voice freely, in the spirit of sharing, without the chains of perfectionism.
SHARE THE 10-MINUTE VENT WITH FRIENDS. They don’t have to be writers to benefit from this practice.
The 10-Minute-Vent will help you develop ways to employ that wellspring of internal energy creatively; it encourages you to hear your internal voices without getting caught up or trapped or trampled between either opposing them or believing their chatter as truth. It helps you to hear the voices from a centered place, that is, a place where you maintain a firm and whole sense of SELF distinct from the fractured cacophony of your internal voices. Like a vent on a boiling kettle, this exercise will instantly relieve internal pressure and heat. What you may also discover is the ability to hear (from your own grounded sense of YOU-NESS) deeper messages below the chaotic and crazy-making chatter.
LET ME KNOW HOW IT GOES.
WISHING YOU FREE FLOW!