My next newsletter post was not going to be this one.
In fact, I was working on the last edits when I had an idea for different post. So, heeding my own advice, I let the muses take me where they wanted me to go this fine Saturday morning and I started writing some notes. But the muses were in an especially playful mood I guess, and they turned me around again, leading me back to last week’s post about what it means to write with wild abandon. And then they reminded me of an example of writing with wild abandon that I’d totally forgotten about.
I know it’s cliché for a writer to say, but Dead Poets Society really was one of my favourite movies way back when. I haven’t watched it in a long time, and I’m not sure it holds up. But there is one scene that stuck with me, and it’s one of the best moments in the movie.* It’s that scene where Robin Williams goads Ethan Hawke into yawping an original poem in front of the class. “Don’t think!” Williams yells at him. “Close your eyes! Tell me what you see!” And Hawke stutters through a riff about a sweaty-tooth madman and his too-small blanket.
This is what it means to write will wild abandon. Don’t think! Close your eyes! Write down what you see in your own mind. Ignore the world around you. And if that critic sitting on your shoulder laughs like the students did in the scene, ignore it too. Just write, write, write. Even if it doesn’t make sense. Especially if it doesn’t seem to make sense.
Because that’s usually where you find the gold. Things that don’t make sense to your conscious mind often connect subconsciously or emotionally or spiritually. Or it appeals to your creative aesthetic.
It doesn’t make sense, but it does.
And you can’t find those nonsensical gold nuggets if you’re not writing with wild abandon. The plodding, logical mind just won’t let you go there.
What the Movie Leaves Out...
Of course, what this scene doesn’t show is the editing process. Ethan Hawke spits out golden nuggets, for sure. But it isn’t a poem. Not quite. And here’s the thing: it doesn’t need to be a poem yet. Not in the traditional sense. You’re not looking to create whole poems or short stories or creative non-fiction pieces here. All you want to do is slam words down onto the page, then sift through all that ore for gold.
How those nuggets all fit together is for your logical brain to figure out later in the editing process.
Key Takeaway: If the blanket’s too small and the madman’s tooth is sweatin’, you’re writing with wild abandon! Close your eyes, ignore the world, and write what you see.
Fun Writing Exercise
Take five minutes – just five minutes – and write some words down about the image below. Look at the image for a little bit, then close your eyes and write everything that leaps to mind. Put it aside for a bit and then take a look again later. See any gold nuggets? Anything you could turn into a poem or a story? Let us know how it goes in the comments below!
I’ll leave you with the scene mentioned above if you want more inspiration. For an added bonus, this scene also includes (in not so many words) a little bit about how fear and loathing kills creativity. Scroll down to view.
Until next time, keep writing with wild abandon!