Write Fast Enough to Stay Ahead of the Doubts

In his Hollywood noir novel A Graveyard for Lunatics, Ray Bradbury writes a scene in which the unnamed narrator-protagonist (a fictionalized version of Bradbury himself) hands a movie script to Fritz the movie director (a composite character based on Bradbury’s friend, director Fritz Lang, and Bradbury’s Moby Dick nemesis, director John Huston). The shocked director gulps his glass of wine and can’t believe the writer has produced this script in less than a day.

“Cut the comedy!” Fritz says. “You couldn’t have written that in a few hours!”

“Sorry,” the narrator replies. “Only the fast stuff is good. Slow down, you think what you’re doing and it gets bad.”

This is not just a scene in a Bradbury novel. This is the essence of Bradbury’s philosophy of writing, and it’s the way he approached every story, novel, and screenplay he ever wrote. As he told Writer’s Digest in a February 1976 interview, “The only good writing is intuitive writing. It would be a big bore if you knew where it was going. It has to be exciting, instantaneous and it has to be a surprise. Then it all comes blurting out and it’s beautiful. I’ve had a sign by my typewriter for 25 years now which reads, ‘Don’t Think!'”

And Stephen King, in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, also wrote about the need for speed: “With the door shut, downloading what’s in my head directly to the page, I write as fast as I can and still remain comfortable. Writing fiction, especially a long work of fiction, can be a difficult, lonely job. It’s like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub. There is plenty of opportunity for self-doubt. If I write rapidly, putting down my story exactly as it comes into my mind, only looking back to check the names of my characters and the relevant parts of their back stories, I find that I can keep up with my original enthusiasm and at the same time outrun the self-doubt that’s always waiting to settle in.”

It’s true. The faster you write, the more confidently you write. You must write fast enough to stay ahead of the doubts. When you write quickly, you’ll find you write brilliantly.

Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler

Detective fiction writer Raymond Chandler put it this way: “The faster I write the better my output. If I’m going slow, I’m in trouble. It means I’m pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.”

Let your words pull you. Let your creativity and confidence flow through you. Write brilliantly. Write fast.

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8 Comments

  1. Hi Jim –
    Thanks to you I’m teaching HOW TO WRITE FAST at our library on May 13. I’ll be referencing you and your post at RANDOM. Your words have empowered me to write fast and I’m confident it’ll help other writers too. It’s amazing what we can do when we write fast. I wrote a suspense thriller during NaNoWriMo and completed 50K words toward the novel. I never could have done that if I’d stop to edit and listen to my inner critic. Yes, it was crap, but after months of rewrites, critiques, and edits I’ll be publishing it soon.
    Best,
    Michelle

    Reply
  2. Hey, that’s great to hear, Michelle! And it’s worth noting that this blog entry is actually snipped from an article at Random Writing Rants, http://randomwritingrants.com/2012/10/23/2021/. —Jim D.

    Reply
  3. This is so true. I wrote my entire YA fantasy in six months. I breezed through it, the words and story flowed so easily, but now I find myself taking so much longer to write. With all this knowledge on technique, I totally doubt. This was a much needed reminder: trust God and just write! Thanks so much, Jim.

    Reply
  4. Reblogged this on Writer's Zen Blog and commented:
    Great post, I want to share too. Go check out Unearthly Fiction!

    Reply
  5. Great advice! I needed to read this today. Been struggling with some self-doubts lately about my writing. I just need to keep writing and not over think things. If you trust in God and the creative process, things always come together (at least that’s what it’s been like so far in my life!).

    Reply
  6. Thanks for that affirmation, Teryn, and for sharing your own experience! Your words inspire me. God bless you and give you enthusiasm* as you write.
    (*Enthusiasm, from entheos, having God within.) —Jim D.

    Reply
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