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The Art of Guerrilla Writing
by Branden Hart
How many of you have said, "I can't write a novel/short story/screenplay/jingle for Mr. Bubbles because I just get started and then I have to go back and revise things, and then I decide I don't like those things, and it's a vicious circle and I get nowhere at all"?
When people tell me how much they admire the fact that I've written six novels and started countless others, I ask them why they don't do it themselves, and that's the answer I usually get. And why can't people seem to get past the editing stage when they're writing? Because people are pussies, that's why. For some reason, there's this subtle sense of shame that hangs over the creative process in our society, and that means that when people are writing—even when they're only writing for themselves, in the comfort of their own home—they can't get past the "What would someone else think about this" attitude.
Folks, that's not the way it has to be. My favorite times writing are spent when the words just flow out of my brain and through my fingers. Whether they're shitty words or not doesn't make any difference. The only thing that makes a difference is that they're MINE.
Maybe one reason it doesn't make sense to me is that I've always written like this. I've never been the type to revise as I go along. After all, that kind of revision is somewhat useless. Sure, if I find a good spot to insert a nice turn of phrase or an interesting metaphor, I'll stop, think on it for a minute, and try to come up with something to put in. But for the most part, I just go. When I'm writing fiction, I'm not trying to come up with the next point in the plot—I'm trying to discover it. The story already exists somewhere in the ether, and it's my responsibility to dig it out and bring it to light. That's where guerrilla writing comes in.
Guerrilla writing is analogous with exercise. If you are participating in a 100-mile bicycle race, you have to be very careful how you perform. You not only have to prepare your machine, you have to prepare yourself, and then when you are actually in the race, you can't just ride as fast as you can. You have to carefully choose when to shift gears, when to coast, when to fall behind, and when to charge forward. Guerrilla writing is nothing like that. Guerrilla writing is more like when you come home from a long day at work, air up the tires on your bike, and ride as fast and hard as you can. There's no preparation, no unnecessary attention paid to anything but the fact that you have to ride.
Sure—a lot of the stuff that you come up with while engaging in guerrilla writing is going to suck. But quite frankly (and yes, I'm looking at you) a vast majority of what you write sucks. There has been NOBODY in history who has spouted gold from their pen at a consistent rate. Every writer in history has produced works that amount to a steaming pile of dog shit. Whether or not we're exposed to them isn't the point—the point is that they exist.
The spirit of guerrilla writing is this: don't be afraid to write crap. It's ok. Everyone does it. But to purge the mind of all the shitty ideas you have to find that one that has some merit, you just have to sit down, place your hands on the keyboard, and start typing.
I have a challenge for whoever is reading this. It took me five minutes to write this article. I have not gone back and read it. I KNOW that there are absolutely shitty sentences in here, and I have no clue if I've effectively gotten my point across. But, given the subject of the piece, I couldn't have done it any other way.
Your challenge: go to that little comment box, enter your information, and then spend five minutes writing. It doesn't matter what it is. Just write. And then share it with us. Let's all show our creative genitals to each other. Bare it all. Trust me—you'll feel better once you do.
Uberchief is more gorilla than guerilla.