Should you stop mid-flow?

Kingsley Amis once wrote, “the best treatment for writer’s jitters is seeing to it that you stopped the previous session in the middle of a chapter or scene or paragraph and so are today merely going on with something, not starting afresh.”

Now, this isn’t the first time that I’ve heard of this particular technique. On one of the creative writing podcasts that I listen to, the host was interviewing an author who proclaimed he did something similar; he tries to finish his writing day not when he was struggling to force out those last few sentences, but when he was mid-flow and muse was screaming into his ear.

There are two reasons that this resonates with me and they come from differing ends of the scales.

Firstly, I’ve had the times when I feel like my hands belong to someone else as they flitter across the keys and the blank page quickly begins to fill with black text. For me, however, those periods are few and far between and I’m not sure I dare click “save” during that creative storm on the chance that the lightning may still strike the next day.

Secondly, I’ve spent so much time staring at empty space on the PC screen that (for good or for bad) it has become part of my own writing regime. I see the white rectangle as a challenge and use it to motivate myself to start writing. I’m not sure how much of an achievement I’d feel by simply continuing on from a block of text that I hadn’t ‘finished’.

The problem I have with this technique is that whilst it may reduce the amount of downtime due to writers block / muted muse etc. it seems to do it at the expense of your most productive periods. Furthermore, if you’ve reached a point where you’re struggling and paused for the day, you’ve often got a few hours (and some sleep ) to work on what to do next. Using Amis’ technique, I can’t help but feel the block hits a lot harder, even if it is much less common.

Oddly, when I use an analogy of pushing a broken-down car along a road, I can see the merits of just pushing often enough to keep the car moving as opposed to giving it a huge push and then waiting for it to stop before pushing it again. (That reminds me, World’s Strongest Man should be back on TV soon.)

As with all of these techniques, some work better for some, but not for others. So, whilst I don’t think I’m going to consciously adopt this particular approach, I’d be interested to hear from others who work this way and find it useful.

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