First-thing writing might work

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If you are looking for the time in your day to write, let me suggest first thing in the morning. And I do mean first thing. I’m working through the Robert Olen Butler book From Where You Dream, a guide on how to create sensitive, meaningful writing full of yearning. Butler is big on a dream state as the place you can sit and write from — plenty of other writing teachers believe in dreams as the engine for good tales, too.

I’ve been working with this for a week, and I like what’s appearing on my pages so far.

In Butler’s book — which is really a series of his lectures, transcribed and edited by the queen of fiction teachers Janet Burroway — he suggests you get to your notebook or laptop while you’re half-awake. He says of this writing time, when you might have a cup of coffee at your side but nothing else:

It’s a funny state. It’s not as if you’re falling asleep at your computer, but neither are you brainstorming. You are dreamstorming, inviting the images of moment-to-moment experience through your unconscious.

Butler says a state of communion with your unconscious is absolutely essential to writing well in the art form of fiction. That’s why reading non-fiction when you first rise chases the dream state away. “You go to your fiction writing without letting any conceptual writing into your head,” he says. He also suggests going to a different place to write your fiction than the other place in your home where you write analytical pieces, use logic, solve problems with your writing. Use a different font on your computer, if you compose on the keyboard. Change the color of your screen or desktop.

Signal yourself, with these differences, that you’re going to focus on how your characters experience emotion. More on that next week.

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