Moravia, 200 lines a day

Um, I don’t believe the phrase “half ass” appeared anywhere in my post. I also believe I said, quite clearly, that attempting to perfect the first draft simply does not work for me. I’ve tried it, in the mistaken belief that it would be faster. It’s not. Instead of throwing the raw work of an afternoon in the trash, I end up throwing the highly polished labor of a week in the trash. Either way, I’ve got to start from scratch.

With all due respect, Wock, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what works for me, and my editors and readers seem to agree. You should feel free to use whatever methods work for you, and I wish you the best of luck.

It’s difficult or impossible to deduce a writer’s methods from the end product alone, and the end product is all that matters.

Quite a few very successful writers set quotas for themselves. I know at least one for whom 3000 words is the quick warm up exercise before getting down to the real work. I know another who considers a year a failure if she doesn’t break a million words.

I actually agree with this to an extent. By giving myself a word quota, I ensure that I will take time to play in the sandbox on a regular basis. Sometimes the results will be great. Sometimes the results will be terrible, but who cares? It’s just sand.

Sure. By letting my left brain worry about word count, I keep it from trying to f@$# with the actual words. The right brain gets the freedom it needs, and the left brain can trust that we really are making progress toward tangible goals. Works great!

If you can’t edit your own work, you’ll never be a successful writer. Ain’t no one on the planet who produces publishable first draft every time.

Besides, editing is actually at least three different professions. Copyediting, content editing, and development are not the same things, but all three are done by people with “editor” on their business cards.


How many drafts?

For all you know, he did pound out the first draft in an evening. No one ever said that something is “done” as soon as one hits the word quota.


And speaking of editors, Wock, you really need to make your posts shorter. I’m sorry, but I’m not wading through all that just to have the same (mistaken, imho) point repeated a dozen times.

I wonder, and this is a genuine question, how much you actually write yourself (other than 2000-word forum posts), and how many writers you know. Because the theories you’re expounding here have very little to do with the reality of my day-to-day work, or that of any writer I know. And the suggestion that “classic” writers didn’t pursue word counts, quotas and targets is simply absurd. Dickens and Conan Doyle were writing for weekly newspaper serialisation, for heaven’s sake.

[EDIT TO ADD] I would also point out how common this is in music, too, seeing as that’s your background. Classic songwriters like Lou Reed, David Bowie, Brian Eno etc. were notorious workaholics and ‘quota fillers’ in their heyday. During his VU days, Reed would literally write ten songs a day in order to find the one or two that were good enough to stick around.

London, Twain/Clemens, King (last thing I read about him, which was a long time ago because I don’t really care for his stuff) and most other well known US authors use “quotas” as well. While I “don’t like” the method, the shear fact remains the Katherine’s and Antony’s points are provable though a simple test (one which I have done). Give an honest 1 month effort at measured method writing. Set a simple 1,500/day word count target for Monday thru Thursday. Feel free to go over. Every Friday edit your 6K words. I did mine as a logical series but you may need to edit 4 distinct 1.5K chunks. My personal best was retaining just under 4K words. That would be 2K filler removed. Normally I lose half, or 3K filler removed. Once you have done this for a month put it all aside and repeat using a less structured approach. Compare.

My personal experience is that I see a high quality and consistent output using the structured approach. Less daughditor issues. Better story lines. More consistent feel. Oh and I get 3K words/week, 12K/month done to MY standards (meaning a real editor my not care for them but I am happy). Using a less structured method I only managed to get between 3K and 9K per month done.

Just my experience.

I also have to agree with Antony on the post length. It gets hard to wade through sometimes.


Sorry for the short novels when one is in the right brain (creative) the first thing that goes is a sense of time or length.

And I cannot argue, both present flawless Logic in their arguments.

It became a discussion on left brain and right brain usage and the power to switch between.

a few quick things I will say in closing.

(1) When you stop the right side to correct spelling and grammar you switch from right side (creative) to left side (logic). This is why many people say write first then edit do not do both at the same time.

(2) If you constantly keep time or watch a clock you are allowing left brain to dominate once again and shifting out of creative mode. The same with a quota or any form of measurement. If you are taking measurements every so often you are switching to logic thinking and coming out of creative mode.

(3) First drafts are exactly that. My argument was write what you mean the first time then next session go into “editing mode” and tear it apart. Separating the two allows one to utilize the full function of their right brain (creative writing) and then left brain (Logic and Accuracy)

(4) Our societies push logic thinking (left side dominance) on everyone at an early age. When a child is young and developing they spend a lot of time in the right brain. (doodling, drawing, humming, daydreaming, etc.) But once they reach an age to be in school that is when we impose Left Brain thinking as a dominant form and suppress the right brain and that is when the “artists” in most people die. Instead they spend most of their time and ours developing their left side of their brain. (reading, writing, arithmetic). This is also around the time “imaginary friends” disappear and kids realize that Santa Claus is more in spirit.

All through our teenage years we are further taught Logic thinking and apply it towards everything. This is further improved upon with college and careers.

To the point where everything we do in life we approach with a “left brain” perspective and sit down and map out the most logical way to be creative. :slight_smile:

How odd.

And our reasons for doing so are completely “logical”.

But nobody’s said otherwise. In fact, that’s exactly what we’ve been advocating - with the caveat that sometime we must “force” ourselves to write that first draft whether we want to or not, rather than waiting for the muse to strike. Sometimes that means you write crap in order to get the first draft finished, but that crap isn’t “filler”, because you know it’s crap and it will come out in the revision stage.

Coincidentally, Merlin Mann writes a good piece about this very subject today:

Ah yes, I know that trick, and I don’t really like the book, hehe (can’t pin point why). However, I do something similar, just not turning it upside down (this would require a photo and I rather draw ‘live’) I draw ‘negative space’, basically, I draw the not-object I want to draw. I don’t look at the object, I look at the space surrounding it and draw what I don’t see (or something, I try to block out the actual object in my head).
This works really well for me, and even if my drawings end up skewed and perhaps out of balance, to me, they look alive and they have feeling.
I also never draw with a pencil, always with a pen, because otherwise I’d be using that eraser non-stop and that takes away the joy of it.

I agree that one should not start out writing with the excuse of ‘oh well I’ll just edit it later’, one should always try to write as well as possible and also not feel bad if it isn’t the best thing ever written. It can be great and it can be crap, and as long as you allow yourself to move in either of those directions without feeling guilty, I think you’ll do well in the end.


In the end if we think about it the “discipline” is for one reason only to keep us visiting the sandbox of creativity (making the transition to the right brain mentality) or staying in the sandbox long enough to make progress. The reason I feel this is difficult for many is because of the left brain dominance we are taught and approach things in with society. It is difficult for many to give up control and forget all logic and let creativity take full control and have full reign in the sandbox without the left brain interrupting with something logical to discuss or measure like time for example. :slight_smile:

After all it has been said that writer’s block is just the brain’s inability to make the transistion over to the right side of your brain completely usually from a distraction or reason the left side willl not relinquish control causing a “blank”.

That is an interesting technique for drawing live (negative space) and a good method of “tricking” the left side of your brain from imposing logic on your work. I can understand about not using pencil I never used it (Too messy and ended up with graphite on my arms which of course transfered back to the paper. I would draw like I write. All over the place. :slight_smile: )I used repidagraph pens and mainly stuck with cross hatching. I set down my pens after I did a portrait once using Stippling method. (47 hours of dots and my eyes were forever crossed)
I mainly used photographs (live sessions were too much for me) it takes a professional eye and quick hand to do live. I don’t draw much anymore. I mainly use photoshop and create or “paint” digitally. Cheaper on consumables for me and easier to store my work. :slight_smile:

I really think you’re taking all this left/right brain thing much too literally. Wasn’t it all debunked some years ago anyway, thanks to surgery patients who’ve had large portions of their brains removed making full recoveries?

“Logic” and “left brain dominance” aren’t highly prized in society at all (oh, that they were). Perfectionism is indoctrinated into us from an early age, and that’s what prevents most people from being creative. “If it’s not done well it’s not worth doing”, and all that. What gets omitted is the fact that the “doing well” takes an enormous amount of practice and experimentation. So we grow up thinking that if we don’t get it right first time, we’ll never get it right, and thus most people never even try.

I’ve never heard that said, ever, but regardless it’s bunk. Writer’s block is the inability to “switch off” one’s internal critic, nothing more or less.

As for shutting out the distractions, that’s precisely what the discipline, routines, and quotas are for, because they help you get started. Once you’re in the flow, you become oblivious to time and word counts anyway. It’s not a conscious thing, you just do it automatically.

Given that the left brain makes sure the right brain has food and shelter, I’m not sure it’s really fair to treat it as The Enemy.

Not to mention, both are aspects of the same person, and feeling constantly at war with oneself doesn’t seem like a great way to live.

I’ve found it much easier to see the two as partners, with complementary roles to play.


I strongly agree with Antony. Professional writing takes self-discipline, methodical habits, and your butt in the chair. Theorizing about the brain and one’s toilet training is probably a waste of time. I was a very late bloomer, showing no promise until my 20s. Then I got to work and began to develop my talents. If I had listened to all the friends and teachers who said I was mediocre, I would never have gotten anywhere. As a teacher, I encouraged everyone to strive for their dreams. But I also stressed that writing well is the ability to research, plan, organize, draft quickly and revise slowly, over and over and over again. You’ve got to enjoy staring at words and finding ways to work them. Onward, all!

No actually it was from these patient where the theory gained notice. Many were able to fully recover but had to learn things like writing speech and walking all over again. They also had to retrain certain actions and physical actions in order to actually do them.

Let us look at education.
(A) Left brain subjects


(B) Right brain subjects


Now honestly do children spend more time studying (A) or studying (B)? Almost everything we do in society is geared towards Left Brain Dominance. And I can prove with a few of you. :slight_smile:
Each of you is a gifted artist and each of you I bet have more than ONE expressive outlet for creativity besides just writing.

Antony you do comics am I correct?
Jaysen is a musican am I correct?
Tanje is an artist.
I don;t know what Katherine does but I bet she does something creative not related to her writing.

What do each of you have in common? A strongly used and exercised RIGHT BRAIN.
I bet each of you are excellent drivers as well, you probably have an imaginary friend or “muse” and each of you have trouble sometimes with keeping track of the time.

But each of you also have very LOGIC reasoning as well. Jaysen is well versed in advanced computer technologies, I know that Anthony is very knowledgeable in literary and scientific topics, I know katherine is very professional and analytical in her writing and in her political ideology. Tanje I don;t know a whole lot but the use of negative space as a structured way to overcome a creative obstacle shows advanced left brain logic thinking as well.

Now my proof. You are each the exception not an example of the average.

The average will be a person of average intellect with average skills in logic and will not excel in any creative form of expression.

A sample of that is look at the creative art community. Is it made up of about everyone in your community or is a small niche community?

Why are each of you an exception?
Well in average normal people you would be lucky to find ONE form of creative expression that they may practice as a hobby. They will spend very little of their time in an actual “Creative” state (Right brain Expression)

Each of you practice and excel at at least TWO forms or more of Creative Expression. You also spend MORE TIME in a creative state than an average person. You will also exhibit higher than average IQs and you will be exceptionally good problem solving and logical thinking. BUt you will also exhibit more of a roundness at multiple left brain specialization (Good at math and Good at English) but you will not find complete enjoyment in just one (Specializing in a left brain field such as math).

Each of you are the exception to the rule but each of you have the same extra abilities in common that make you the exception. That is due to using more than half your brain :slight_smile:

The internal critic is the manifestation of your Left Brain. Your right brain is neither logical nor is it critical. Only your left brain (logic) can manifest criticism.

This is when you actually achieve the “shift” from logic to creative. Once you are in writing mode like you said you become oblivious to time and word counts (forms of measurement).

So the question is if you don’t use it once the shift is made why do you need it?

Simple. Your left brain needs a logical reason to relinquish control and let the right side take over. Because after all the right side is the “child” it is creative, it is imaginative, but it is also irresponsible. The left side (Logic) is like the parent. Keep the child out of trouble, keep the child safe, etc.

It is very difficult for the “adult” in all of us to relinquish full control and so sometimes you have to give your left side a very logical reason. Why do word counts and time allotments work so well? Because logically speaking, you are telling the adult "Hey let the kid drive for awhile BUT we will stop in a certain time frame or when we reach a certain goal and then the child will relinquish control and we can get our minds back into a logical state. It makes the Left side (adult) let go easier for same when you give it an exact time frame/goal when it will be allowed back. Other than that it has no actual use because once the shift is made you become oblivious to logic and you forget time and measurement, until either you are interrupted and the “adult” grabs the wheel again or something “wakes up” the left side and the transition back to logic occurs. Does it actually improve your writing? Well if you don’t use while you are writing it would be hard to say yes. The only thing it may improve is your ability to make the shift from left brain to right brain.

For the average person to achieve this “shift” is not very easy but it is done. Usually their right brain expression is left to things such as listening to music, reading, driving, watching a movie or play or watching or playing sports.

I bet each of you do “creative things” pretty much all the time when you are not in a “work” mode. It is second nature to each of you making the shift. And I bet you make the shift many times during just one day.

That is an exception.
That is my logical explanation for explaining the workings of illogical thinking.

Really? I think maybe you need to get to know more average normal people. Gardening, woodworking, needlecrafts, scrapbooking, cooking, photography… the list of popular right-brain hobbies looks pretty long to me. Not to mention sports, which I’m not sure about but which you put on the right brain list.

I also think you aren’t giving the “left-brain” professions enough credit. The working methods of great scientists are remarkably similar to the working methods of great artists. The end result may be logical and structured, but the process of getting there involves lots of intuition, puttering around, wrong turns, false starts, and so forth. You’ll also find plenty of creative hobbies among working scientists, too.


Wait a minute… haven’t you spent several thousand words telling us that writing is a right brain activity? Then what’s it doing on the left brain list? And certainly reading feeds the right brain: it’s pretty hard to create if you don’t supply yourself with the raw materials.

Granted, these subjects are often taught in a very structured, logical way, but there’s nothing left brained about the material itself.


The creative part of writing (imagining the story, scene, etc) is right brain. The act of actually forming words with letters is a structured exercise and using the letters to form words is left brain. So “creative writing” is considered a “right brain activity” because the actual left brain contribution is like being on auto pilot for the right brain. Writing exercises, studying grammar, etc is left brain and rules based activities.

As to Sports yes they are very right brain activities. Reading from another of your posts I read you were in a Dojo and the study of a bladed weapon (Martial Arts) is a very good example of a person using BOTH sides of their brain. The theory and practice is very disciplined and structured but once one has learned the moves they practice without thought and go into a very peaceful state of mind. Also one will achieve muscle memory mapping easier if they practice their moves without thought or a cluttered mind and then sleeping afterward. This is the shift to right brain. In sports it is structured and taught in a left brain fashion but once one has been “taught” a method or procedure it is actually the right side of the brain that actually has the ability for your body to do all the moves seamless and without thought. Or as many say it becomes like breathing to them. They do not have to think it out but rather just act.

Your physical body is mainly controlled by the right side of your brain in activities like sports, driving, etc. The left brain gets confused and has a lot of trouble. You can tell by the ability to “daydream” while doing an activity. YOu will not daydream while balancing your checkbook because logically you know you could make an error but if you are working out at the DOJO and going through a well practiced routine you will probably clear your mind before hand and then you may “daydream” or focus your thoughts on something other than exactly what your body is doing.

Many people experience this “working out” in gyms, jogging, aerobics, or other physical activites more so than they would when they are having to “concentrate” on something particular especially when it comes to measurement.

Many of the “Left Brained” professions are exceptional but the people that usually excel at left brain activites are ones who have a lot of Right Brain Expression in their life. I know it sounds totally weird but think of it like this.

You are person who uses both sides of her brain extensively throughout your activites. YOu give both sides of your brain plenty of chances to take full control. But your life and your activites are actually centered around a more Right Brained lifestyle rather than a left brained life style.

You are a creative writer, YOu are active in martial arts, I bet you also have many other hobbies and I bet you are a physically active person (hiking, running, swimming, etc).
But you are also very logical and disciplined (If you are into martial arts then you have high amounts of discipline). This makes you a “balanced person” in such that you utilize both strong functions of your mind. You use the logic when needed but are disciplined enough to be able to switch to you right brain at the drop of a hat. (This is a key factor in martial arts training. The mastering of of the mind over the body).

Now you take a well celebrated scientist or “Left Brain” person who is exceptional what you will see is almost mirror image but they are the polar opposite. They are centered more to the left rather than the right. They have right brain activities throughout their life BUT none will be their career. It will be more of a secondary hobby but they will be fascinated with logic, time, math, structure, discipline. But their right side of their brain will give you tell tale signs.

They may appear like an “absent minded professor” they may not match their clothes or their hair may be a little unkept. They will not be very good drivers and their cars will usually not have a lot of expressive character but rather function.

The thing is they also sue BOTH sides of their brain extensively just in slightly different manners. Problem solving is very right brained activity because sometimes it takes a little “immagination” or as some people say “think outside the box” The box being the restraints of a logical world or left brained world.

So you see it if you look at people in general and watch them you will see a pattern emerge in usually one of five ways
Left brain Genius = Usually in Scientists, mathematicians they are usually consumed completely with field and are pretty much genius at it. They have difficult social skills, drive terribly, and are usually fully consumed night and day with one field

Left Brained Major/Right Brain Minor = Usually in a teaching position, researcher, Crytogrophy, physics, engineer,or other field that is left brain oriented but still requires right brained imagination. This is where most successful people in life fall in regular careers like accountants, teachers, editors, management, etc.

Left Brain Average = This is the majority of people in the world. They are happy and they are content but they are not major achievers nor have they accomplished great things but that is perfectly ok. They are just you average person with your average job doing average things.

RIght Brain Major / Left Brain Minor = This is very close to the LBm/RBm. Mainly made up of teachers, instructors, athletes, writers, artists, musicians, actors and playwrights and show signs of exceptional social skills These are leaders and problem solvers but are mainly focused more so on the creative arts rather than the “logical arts”

[b}Right Brain Genius[/b] These are mirror images of the left brain geniuses except with them they have a poor sense of time but show very expressive examples of style, clothing, decor, they may appear somewhat eccentric and very irresponsible but may excel in expressive forms of art but mainly focused on one particular form of expression (Think Jimmy Hendrix when he thinks in colors)

More people start at Left Brain average and move upward towards LBm/RBm.

Some of the more “creative” people drop from Left Brain Average down to RBm/LBm.

But as children we all start at Right Brain Genius when we are first born and as we enter educational institutions we move up to Left Brain Average and fluctuate from their until we reach our “established” methods of interaction starting around the age of 25 and settling down into the grove. Some people midway through life may switch their methods abruptly but usually it is one dropping from a more structured LBm/RBm method to the opposite of RBm/LBm.

What is interesting is when you take those very basic methods and then look at the pople in your life starting with who you are closest to to just aquantences and you may find the results quite interesting and telling about yourself as a person.

In lamen terms each of you would not be considered an “average person” and you may find that you surround yourself closest with people that are simular in methods (may be opposing)

Like a RBm/LBm and a LBm/RBm would both be successful people and would both get along great.
but a LBm/RBm would be rather put off by say a Right Brain Genius due to the lack of structure and logic in their every day lives. The same would be for a RBm/LBm would feel rather stifled with a Left Brain Genius.

Left Brain Average get along with about everyone.

Oops once again I have seemed to have spewed out another rather boring novel on the methods of creative people.

Sorry it is just a fascinating topic and I find myself at times rambling on about rather boring stuff or my presentation may at first appear a tad repelling.

PS: Kathrine, curiosity has me. What form of Martial Arts do you train in? Do you ever train with the Bo Staff? ( I find that awe inspiring but if I ever pick one up I would look like Daffy Duck in that old Robin Hood cartoon when he would do the routine “Spin thrust parry!” and then of course smack myself in the face. :slight_smile:

Right, woah. Hold on a second, here.

Firstly, the brain surgery: yes, those people had to re-learn some functions. But we already know that certain centres of the brain control specific functions, and obviously when you remove them those functions will need to be re-learnt. But [a] they can be re-learnt, which means they can move about from one ‘side’ of the brain to the other, and [b] these centres are not strictly divided into logical on the left, creative on the right. They’re all over the bloody shop.

Secondly, and this is the show-stopper… Wock, you started this discussion by saying that writing to a word quota resulted in “all filler and no killer”, and that the best work was made by instead creating only when one was in the mood for it. But now you’re saying that all these disciplined methods, the quotas and routines we set ourselves, work. Which is what the rest of us have been saying all along! You obviously have a different opinion of why they work, but that was never the issue. You appear to have completely U-turned.

No no, we all just aimed for the same bulls-eye, except, we didn’t all stand on the exact same point :wink:


I am a writer who lives on his writing, fiction and non-fiction. Right now I am writing a magazine piece on the African-American religious experience and the history of slavery in the US. For this I recently traveled to the US and spent a month there.

It is 7 o’clock in the morning. I have to get my piece done. I allow myself the procrastination of reading this forum. After I have drunk my coffee, finished my bun, I will turn off my wifi and concentrate. I have a clock that “beeps” every 45 minutes, then allows me a break of 5 minutes. Within these 45 minutes I don’t even get up to go the bathroom.

I just know myself. If I don’t fight procrastination with discipline, I will not get much done. This is the way I am. There are writers who don’t need discipline. But most that I know do.

I have a low opinion of what I write. This creates a mental barrier that I can only overcome with discipline. After two or three hours of work I usually can turn off that clock and work on without it.

I don’t want to, at the end of my life, answer when asked what I did with my life: " I intended to…"

Please, if you are embarking on becoming a writer don’t let anybody tell you that this will happen without a lot of work, discipline, desperation, sweat. There are many wonderful moments but there are also dark moments. This is what is called “learning”.

But then again: maybe you are one of the few lucky ones whom all is given to by the Gods from the very start.


Sorry, Wock, your description just doesn’t match my experience of writing, sciences, or martial arts.

Since you asked, I’m studying aikido, which includes both sword and jo (short staff, about shoulder height). I’ve done maybe a few hours of practice with bo (long staff, taller than a person), but that’s it. FWIW, we say that the structured techniques are the language you use to study the internal aspects of the art. You don’t abandon analytical thinking once you learn the techniques, you just turn your analytical powers to different tasks.

IMO, the Right Brain/Left Brain dichotomy is vastly overstated, often by people who are trying to sell self-help books. Right brain-dominant and left-brain dominant people appear and are successful in pretty much every field. Succeeding in any kind of knowledge work – creative arts, professions, sciences – requires both analytical and intuitive thinking. I’m more interested in getting better at both than in dissecting the components of individual tasks.