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Clearing The Fog

Hiya, how do you think you are?

Hopefully, my last post didn’t make your brain ache too much. I know there was a lot to get your head around.

That’s why I want to help by setting you a little challenge.

To me, thoughts can be like fog at sea. Unwelcome and impenetrable.

My head is full of that impenetrable fog right now. Not least because I got food poisoning last Sunday night. It knocked me for six and it’s taken me nearly a week to get back to my desk.

And now here I am trying to get things clear and write something that won’t seem like complete cobblers to you. Let’s see how I do.

Yes, I really dislike fog at sea. There you are, sailing along in bright sunshine, living the dream. The horizon ahead is sharp and clear. Your next safe harbour is almost in sight and you can already see that cold beer in your hand.

Then, the next time you glance up, that horizon line looks hazy, sky and sea beginning to merge into a uniform grey mass. The greyness creeps towards you, the temperature drops, the sun disappears, and then you’re enveloped. Blind, disorientated and stressed.

At sea you can’t switch off, you must stay alert. You just have to do the best you can and hope it clears soon.

Thoughts can have the same effect. But on your sofa at home, they’re easier to deal with. You can just ignore them. You can turn up the volume of distraction and drown them out with Netflix.

But that’s not an effective strategy. It gets you nowhere.

You can’t ignore thinking forever, well you could, but it won’t end well. And besides, we’re on a mission here, remember? We want to think things through. We want to navigate through the fog and find our destination.

So, what we need to do is to be selective just as I said last time out. Use the quality stuff and ditch the crap. But how do you do that when everything is so confused?

Well, I have a guaranteed 100% effective money back solution for you.

It’s called freewriting.

Now before you let out a sigh of disappointment because I mentioned writing and you know you can’t write. Hold up a second and hear me out.

I know there’s a lot of baggage attached to the word ‘writing’. Believe me, I’ve carried a lot of that baggage over the years.

It’s because there’s a perception that writing is a skill few possess, and to some extent it is. But talking is a skill as well, and you can probably do that.

It’s just a question of proficiency, isn’t it?

If you’re going to be a best-selling fiction author, you’ll need to be a damn good writer. If you’re going to hold a theatre full of people spellbound with your words, you’d better know how to talk. But you’re not trying to do either of those things. The only audience for what you’re going to produce will be you.

Think of it as doodling. I bet you’ll happily scrawl away on the desk pad while talking on the phone. But you’re probably not an artist and if anybody asked you’d say you can’t draw.

So think of freewriting as doodling with words. And if that word ‘writing’ really is a problem, let’s call it ‘Thought Dumping’. We can all dump can’t we?

So how does it work?

I’d suggest going old school for this. An A4 notepad and pencil works best for me. Go mad and use a ballpoint if you want, but remember this is not ‘writing’. You don’t need a leather-bound Moleskine and a gold Lamy pen. In fact, that’d be counterproductive.

You also want a timer. That should be easy.

After that you just need to find a time and place where you can be undisturbed for a while. First thing in the morning works well for me. I used the word ‘dump’ earlier. If needs must use that time, but don’t multitask 😉

All set? Ok, now what?

  • Step One: Set the timer for 10 minutes.
  • Step Two: Start the timer.
  • Step Three: Start scribbling……. Immediately!

Whatever pops into your head write it down as quickly as you can. It helps to nudge your thoughts in the direction you want to go, but don’t force it.

There’s only one rule, but it’s unbreakable. You are not allowed to stop, not even pause. That pencil must keep moving until the timer goes off.

If you come to a point where your thoughts stop momentarily and you can’t think what to write you keep scrawling even if it’s complete gobbledegook.

When the timer goes off you stop, even if you’re mid-sentence.

Stop.

Accept that this will feel unnatural. We’ve all been conditioned to write carefully and with consideration. But do that and you’ll spend ten minutes chewing the end of your pencil and with a blank sheet of paper as a reward.

OK, you should now have a page or two of unintelligible misspelled meaningless scrawling in front of you. Now what?

Do not read them.

Tear the pages out, fold them up and tuck them away somewhere. There’s no looking at them until next week. Trust me, it’ll be worth the wait.

I said at the start this was a challenge, but treat it as a game. Have you ever in your life written non-stop for ten minutes? Can you do it?

Hopefully, you’ll manage Level 1 at least, but why stop there? See if you can repeat the exercise on a few other days. Same routine. Timer, non-stop writing, tear out and stow. The more there is to look at, the more you’ll get out of it.

Have a good week.

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