Twice a year I invite my sweet friend Pamela Des Barres to Dripping Springs to host a writing workshop at my house. I started this project while I had my big salon in Austin during a SXSW and I’ve been doing it ever since, for about fifteen years now.
That year SXSW featured a “Groupie Panel” hosted by Miss Pamela Des Barres, the worlds most famous groupie in the early seventies, and Mr. Robert Plant. Pamela kept a diary, got married, had a child, then wrote the book “I’m With the Band”, which became a best seller and is still in print. She’s been teaching women’s writing workshops for years.
How do they work? The process seems so simple: She quickly gives you a prompt like “Write about something that had unintended consequences” or “Write about something precious” and ready, set, write . . for twelve minutes, then stop. The only rules are, no qualifying, no thinking, no editing, no critiquing. Then each of the 13-15 Women in my living room read what they wrote, out loud, one by one.
I never feel I do my best writing this way while I’m doing it, but Pamela always says “You can re-write it later.” And, she’s right. The idea is to get things down quickly so that the nagging self-editor in our own minds doesn’t have a chance to get a foothold in our writing. This technique gives our unconscious mind the freedom to explore, to mine personal experiences and wild imaginings without fear of critique.
Hemingway famously wrote, “Write drunk, edit sober”. What he meant was, get your thoughts down freely, even recklessly first. Then take your time to re-write. You can be more scrupulous and exacting when you re-write. But don’t confuse this suggestion with editing, or qualifying or thinking or critiquing as you write. When you do that, you’re getting in your own way.
Writing, like living your life, requires freedom of mobility. Later you can, and will, re-write. You’ll toss out what isn’t working, consolidate, fine tune, prune and elaborate. If you edit too soon, you’ll never know what your writing (or your life) could have been.