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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Pre-edit Step Two to Prevent Writer’s Resistance

read with love

Read once for love. Read the second time for the thrum.

In the previous post, we identified the first of two essential pre-editing steps: read your draft and just love it.

Jumping from loving your draft to critically analyzing it or starting to edit, reword, rework, cut, slash and burn would be a bit like ending a honeymoon with a stop at a divorce lawyer’s office.

Just thinking about having to analyze your draft or make massive edits can trigger subtle resistance if not outright block.

To avoid that resistance, I recommend a second pre-edit step that will ease you from not evaluating at all in your first read to reading a second time to develop your discernment of the draft. (more about discernment vs. judgment)

Listen for the Thrum

You do that by reading your draft and listening for the “thrum.”

Robert Olen Butler introduces the idea of “thrum” in From Where You Dream:

“Like the string of a stringed instrument you vibrate inside [as you read], a harmonic is set up. So to edit your work, you go back and thrum to it. And you go thrum, thrum, thrum, twang! And when you go twang! as a reader, mark that passage. And you thrum on and twang on.” [italics are Butler’s]

The twangs are the rough spots, the places that aren’t quite in harmony with the rest of the draft. John Gardener would say twangs are where readers get pulled out the dream.

Don’t stop to think about how to fix anything. You don’t have to know why the writing thrums and why it twangs where it does. You don’t have to know how to fix it yet.

Just keep reading and listening. You mark the twangs because when you’re pulled from the dream, you have the awareness to pick up the pen. When the writing is thrumming along, you don’t think about marking the manuscript.

brain by mercedes benz 151835_15_0_MzQyOTE4OTQxLTUwNDcxNDUyOADream and Dream Again

Revision and editing will require both the logical brain and the emotional brain, but before you let the conscious mind get too dominant, which it does so easily and quickly, listen one more time with your unconscious mind.

Butler advises us to imagine alternatives before we let the logical brain and the conscious mind take the lead.

“The primary and only necessary way to experiencing a work of literary art is not by ‘understanding’ it in analytical terms, it is by thrumming to the work of art… Then you go back to the twangs and instead of looking at the twangy spots and analyzing them in lit-crit ways, instead of consciously and willfully applying what you understand with your mind about craft and techniques, you redream those passages.”

When you start editing and revising, of course you’ll intentionally apply all the craft and technique you have. But first, just love what’s there.

Second, listen for the ineffable — what Butler calls the thrum, what logic cannot name but intuition recognizes immediately. Where the thrum is missing, let your less-than-conscious mind nudge you. Let the writer’s trance show you more possibilities. (more about writer’s trance)

When you’ve exhausted the possibilities of the writer’s trance, leave the draft alone. When you’re ready to start editing and revising, Mary Carroll Moore’s upcoming guest posts will give you direction.

If you’d like to explore and experiment with Butler’s “dreamstorming” method (which Susan Gaines Sevilla used to finish her novel), I’ll teach the Enter the Flow class at the Loft starting October 28.

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4 Comments on “Pre-edit Step Two to Prevent Writer’s Resistance”

  1. Kim OGorman August 4, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    Hi Rosanne When is your next class of Entering the Flow starting?   Kim   


    • rosannebane August 6, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

      Hi Kim,
      Thanks for asking about the Flow class. The next Entering the Flow will be a 6-week, in-person class at the Loft starting Monday October 28, 2013. For more information or to register, go to https://www.loft.org/classes/detail/?loft_product_id=35975 Like all my Loft classes, a full scholarship is offered to one student, so if you think you might qualify, there’s a link to Apply For Scholarship at the bottom of that page. I hope to see you in class!


  2. Joel D Canfield August 2, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    You probably pointed me to Butler in the first place, huh? Good application of his work. His “tapping your unconscious” methodology resonates with me. I almost didn’t give the book back to the library, but they begged, so now I’ll buy my own copy.


    • rosannebane August 6, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

      Butler’s is one of the books, I frequently pull from my shelf to look something up or recommend to a coaching client or student.


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