Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thomas Kaufman, Guest Blogger

Thomas Kaufman is guest blogger today. Tom has a new short story collection out in e-book, Erased and Other Stories. He is the author of STEAL THE SHOW,  the sequel to lthe award-winning novel, DRINK THE TEA. He is also an Emmy award-winning director and cameraman who has spent a lot of time with cops, filming "The FBI Files," "The Prosecutors," and "New Detectives" for Discovery Channel. He has also shot training films for the FBI, as well as hundreds of documentaries.

Tom's going to talk today about "Writing Blind". Thank you, Tom.

Writing Blind

Has anyone ever given you advice that, right up front, you knew was rotten?

What about if you’re a skeptic, like me? Bum advice and a cynical viewpoint, not a great combo.

That’s how I felt when I read FICTION by Michael Seidman.  The author includes a small piece of advice that made me so angry, I threw the book across the room. Then I took a walk to cool down. Seidman had written something in his book that couldn’t  be right. Maybe it was a typo? I turned around and walked back, picked the book up from the carpet and took another look. Nope, not a typo, the guy actually meant what he wrote.

It was close to six and my turn to make dinner. I went to the kitchen, started a stew, and continued my stewing about Seidman.  So okay already, what did he write? Well, in his book, he advises writers to not look at the  screen when they are typing. Turn off your monitor, Seidman says. Put a piece of paper over your laptop screen. Don’t look at what you’re writing.

Now, I’m the world’s worst typist. I mean, just on this little article you’re reading, I’ve spent almost as much time correcting as I have in writing. So when I write a novel or short story, I always look at the screen, sometimes even back up to make corrections. Kind of a correct-as-you-go approach.

With Seidman's method, I’d have to correct everything afterwards. I’d also have to close every other program on my laptop when I was writing, so I wouldn’t accidentally hit the wrong keys and switch to, say a browser, and have all my writing come to naught.

The guy’s bonkers, I thought. Certifiable.  For some reason, his advice bugged me for days till I finally gave up. “Okay, okay,” I grumbled, I’ll try it.”

I was ready. I even did a small exercise to focus my brain, then started writing.

Now, up to that moment, getting 600 words out in a day was difficult. My first try using Seidman‘s method, I wrote 2000 words. Dang.

Why the big difference? I think it has to do with switching off the critical part of your brain.  That part’ll come in handy when you start revising. But for a first draft? The critical part gets in the way of the creative part. So Seidman’s technique, in essence, switches off the critical part of your brain.  His method lets the words flow.
This is now the only way I write. The flow is good and, while I may not make 2000 words a day, I know I can get 600 or maybe 1000 or maybe 1500.  Plus, writing blind makes it easier for me to think in a linear, scene-building fashion.

So thanks, Mr Seidman, wherever you are.  Even a skeptic like me has to admit, you’re on to something. And how about you? Ever receive a pearl of advice you at first thought was an onion?

And, thank you, Tom. If you'd like to check out more of his writing,

here's the link to Thomas Kaufman's story collection, Erased and Other Storieshttp://amzn.to/YtXHFw  

Tom Kaufman's website is www.thomaskaufman.com

4 comments:

Thomas Kaufman said...

Lesa, thanks for letting me visit today. It's always a pleasure.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Tom. As I said, I don't know if you'll get any comments today, but I do know people are reading it.

Libby Dodd said...

Fascinating idea.
Is that why some writers use pen and paper for fist drafts:no auto-correct giving underlining warnings?
Some times I find that an idea/comment/etc. that really bothers me is just the one I need to pay attention to.

Thomas Kaufman said...

Libby,

I wonder how many writers today use pen and paper for their first drafts. John Steinbeck said he did it to slow down his writing, to think more about what he was saying.

There's few things I hate more than auto-correcting software. What the software thinks is a mistake is actually style -- at least, I hope so. Covering the screen lets me switch off the critical part, and let my creative thoughts roam. Just like the chickens at Whole Foods, I have free-range thoughts.