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Read yourself as a stranger

Remember your reading voice, how you sound when you read your own work aloud (assuming that you read aloud as a test of your tone, meter and rhythm)? Well, that is your comfort zone, the place where you create and revise with a degree of tension, agony and exhilaration. You know when you are there. You can feel it, a certain quickening of the pulse and shallowness of breaths that keeps you at your desk. And it is a place where you forget time so that if you check a clock you are surprised by how fast the last hour passed by.

Now do the opposite of that comfortable rigour (not rigor mortis). Read yourself as a stranger. You do not know any of the above. Negate it as a deliberate act. This means you put the poem or prose into a strange font (goodbye Times New Roman and the tyranny of comfort thereof), take your name off it (welcome nameless selves) and read it as if someone else wrote it. The act of reading numerous personas as a stranger opens a critical space in you which allows you to be ruthless with the piece of life before your eyes in ways that provenance of authorship prevents you from doing by making you protective of the work.

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Do a THAT return

Back in the mists of time, when I was working on my very first novel, I received my…

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Live your subject

Non-fiction writers live their books before they write them. From biography to travel to books about music, art…

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A poem is made of words and silent words

When I was a child, what I believed to be the power of silent thought terrified me. I…

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Taking a character for a walk

Begin by inventing ten or twelve separate characters, all different from each other. For each one, choose five…

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Freedom in Fabrication

The Japanese writer Tanizaki complained that he could not read his contemporaries. Every time he picked up a…

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Radical Reinvention

One way to think about writing is as a tool of curiosity. A way of finding out about…

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Improve your writing through cutting back

If you don’t know how to begin to improve your writing through cutting back, you might like to…

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The importance of rewriting

For many writers, the pleasure of writing comes in rewriting. It is not everyone’s favourite aspect of writing,…

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Write towards the discomfort

A very simple act of reversal: conventionally we might begin a writing exercise with a prompt given to…

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Writing in a Spoken Voice

If you find the point of view in your stories tends to wander around the place (sometimes very…

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Find the shape of your story

Pick up one of the books you really like – it doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or non-fiction….

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