Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Try Sondra Perl's Composing Guidelines

I mention in most of my classes that even excellent writers often struggle through writer's block, labored drafting, and other writing-process problems. Knowing what's going on internally while drafting and having techniques for overcoming composing barriers should prove useful to any writer who has ever run into a creative wall or felt brain drain while facing writing deadlines. Sondra Perl offers excellent advice in these areas.

Perl, a professor at Herbert H. Lehman College of the City University of New York and a founder of the New York City Writing Project (and one of my former teachers), offers Composing Guidelines to, as she aptly puts it, "help you discover more of what is on your mind and almost on your mind." Here are a selected few of her tips:
  • Continue writing, even when you don't know where you're going.
  • Periodically pause and ask, "What's this all about?"
  • Periodically check what you have written against your internal sense of where you're going or what you wanted to say."

Perl revealingly describes what she means by "internal sense" and includes tips for relaxing and getting into a rhythm while writing. She clarifies a complex cognitive process and provides indispensable encouragement for writers of any stripe. You can get more of her practical advice by searching "Sondra Perl's Composing Guidelines" on google.com.