1. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    Bridging the Gap

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Garball, Feb 28, 2014.

    I am having trouble getting my thoughts to my fingertips. Even now, I knew exactly what I wanted to say in my mind, but when I try to type or write my thoughts down, the blast doors slam shut; the room goes dark. I don't seem to have the same problem when articulating my thoughts into speech and therefor purchased a recording device or use my phone to make notes for later review. However, as handy as these tools are, they are not helping me bridge the gap from brain to fingers.

    Are there short, simple exercises to become more proficient at transforming thoughts to written words?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I can't think of any exercises, but have you tried writing with a pen and paper? It may not seem like it makes a difference, but it really does (not only for me but for others here as well). Something about writing by hand makes writing down your thoughts a bit easier.
     
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  3. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Or listen to music without anything visual to distract you. Also make sure there isn't anything but a pen and paper are handy to do something with. Eventually you will either fall asleep or start writing. Or touching yourself, that depends on you. o_O
     
  4. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    No. Right there is your problem. If you literally knew exactly what you wanted to say, you could have typed it or written it by hand or spoken it into a microphone.

    Brag alert: Years ago after writing a newspaper column about capital punishment, I received a note from a reader who said, "You expressed exactly what I always thought about this, but I couldn't put it into words." But that is the same mistake. If he had known exactly what he thought, he could have put it into words.

    You're both in the same boat. I know what it's like to get a feeling -- an emotion -- that is clear and strong, and feels so rock solid. It "tells" me precisely what to do. But emotions aren't words. Rendering them into sentences and paragraphs requires a different kind of conscious thinking.

    When you get that feeling that you know exactly what you want to say, sit yourself down at the keyboard and type it out. And when it isn't right -- as indeed it won't be, at first -- revise it and revise it and keep on revising it until the words on the page capture the emotion residing in your heart or gut or liver or wherever it has lodged.

    I'm not being cute or snarky. Converting an emotional state into words on a page or screen can be a devilish hard business. Some writers seem to be born with a knack for doing it, others have to acquire it by fire and brimstone. You seem to be somewhere in the latter category . . . with the rest of us!
    No.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2014
  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    For me, I write it, then edit it, then edit it some more and eventually it ends up where I wanted it to be.

    There's something about seeing it on the page, faults matter not, that opens the analytical doors in my mind.
     
  6. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    One thing comes to mind: Taking steps to understand the task you're trying to accomplish.

    Let's say you decided to build a house. In your mind you know exactly what you want to to look like, inside and out. So all you need to do now is build it...except, you don't know anything about foundations, and grading, and the electrical and plumbing codes. And since you're not a carpenter...

    Let's say you wanted to race a sports car. You've watched movies about racing, so all you need do is buy a car and refine your skills on practice day...except...

    See the problem? You know how you want it to read because you can visualize the scene. You can see, hear, and smell the ambiance, and the gee forces as you cut through the turns. You can hear the dialog and know the thoughts of the character. You can even tell the story to yourself, aloud. And as you do you experience the emotion the protagonist is feeling—so the story lives.

    But then you sit down at the keyboard and find that you have no idea of how to translate the images and sounds in your mind into words on the page. None of your teachers ever talked about tags and how to use them. No time was spent on dialogue and how to make it seem real. So when you read what you typed it sounds contrived and stiff.

    See where I'm going? You have the desire, the story, and the time, but what's missing is the equivalent to, "Okay class, when you write a report you need to..." for fiction. You know all the tricks to creating an essay. And you know how to tell a story or a joke. But the writing we learn in school, and our storytelling no more taught usto write fiction than it taught us to be an engineer or a journalist. And the fiction we read, while it gave us the ability to recognize good writing, showed us the product, not the process, and for what you're doing you need the process.

    We had to be taught how to hold a pencil, how to spell, punctuate, and use grammar. We had to learn to write book reports that a teacher would love, and in doing so learned the structure of the reports we might need to write on the job. We also learned to write essays, a skill that translates to writing a paper, with just a bit more knowledge. But we didn't learn the equivalent for fiction. So doesn't it make sense to pick up a few tricks? And since at this point you don't know what you don't know, and therefore, what questions you should be asking, doesn't an overview of the field and the process sound sensible?

    If so, your public library's fiction writing section can be a great resource. And as I do often do, I'll suggest looking for Jack Bickham's name on the cover. He was both a prolific and successful writer, while at the same time being a professor who taught commercial fiction writing.
     
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  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    It sounds to me as if the problem is not about fiction-writing technique (I'm sure @Garball will correct me if I'm wrong) but rather a problem that is common to both Fiction and Nonfiction writers - realizing the essence of what one has to say. That comes before even considering the technique. Over the past 25 years, I've sat down many times, mad as hell, determined to put my case out there as best I could. And then I stared at that blank screen...and stared...and stared.

    As @David K. Thomasson said, there is no simple exercise. You begin with one sentence. In my case, with advocacy pieces, it was always the single most important point I wanted to make: don't cut funding for special education; protect the rights of parents and students; the state must allocate to New York City its fair share of education funding. Whatever it was, that's what I started with. The more I wrote, the easier it became to go from that first sentence to the final product.

    Best of luck.
     
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  8. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    I've been in this same boat for some time. I can spit out ideas like crazy, but I just can't seem to sit down and effectively put words down that I am happy with. It must be something in the water.
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Nope, just that you may not have as clear an idea as you think you do when you start. That's why prodding at it with writing is the only way to deal with it.
     
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  10. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Try saying it out loud when seated at your keyboard. If that works, say it out loud again and type what you just said. Then try typing the same words without saying them out loud. Repeat with next thought etc.
     
  11. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I like doing stream of conscious lists. Letting it all pour out - funky metaphors, the five senses, gestures, bits of dialogue. Sometimes the trouble with trying to get something down is more to do with the worry of getting it down accurately. All coherent sentences, great punctuation, linear thought, pronouns in the proper spot. Sometimes that can kill creativity.

    I find that if I can just ramble the gems will come. Then I can assemble them into a coherent paragraph or semi-coherent for first draft.
    I don't do this all the time - just when I'm stuck.
     
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