“Everyone be quiet I’m trying to vomit.” My daughter Pam announced in an irritated voice.
She wasn’t physically trying to vomit. Rather she was getting her thoughts all down on paper for a college speech class. Pam has adopted that term from hearing her mother use it.
Vomiting on the paper is an effective writing technique. It’s pre- rough draft, a mingling of thoughts and tidbits that are floating around in our heads. Getting them out of our heads can have the same result as vomiting. You feel better when you do.
The Value of Vomiting
Once the words are laying there on the computer screen all disemboweled from my brain, then the clean up begins. Sometimes it is simply pressing the delete button because the idea isn’t good. More often there are words and phrases, perhaps whole paragraphs that are gems. Those are left on the page and the rest cut. Some phrases are pasted to different paragraphs until the vomited mess resembles something intelligent. What remains is the beginning of the real editing and creating.
Good for Writer’s Block
Until the words are gotten out on the page, writers often stay blocked. I find vomiting words as one of the best ways to get started. An idea is roaming around in my head. I have ruminated on it for hours or days and can’t think of how to express it. If I just write, letting the words flow no matter the grammar or word tense, letting the typos stand as I get the words from my mind to the page; the creative juices begin to flow. When I go back and read aloud what I have written, I discover the nugget of thought that sets my mind on a clear path to what I want to express.
Some people refer to this as rambling or emptying their mind. It doesn’t matter what you call it. The thing is to do it. The exercise of freeing your mind in this way jumps starts creativity.
Beware Divine Vomit
The tricky part is to be sure you have totally cleaned up the vomit and have a nice clean piece of work remaining before you send it out for publication. Sometimes we mistake vomit for inspiration because it all comes flowing out on the paper so easily. Don’t deceive yourself into thinking your vomit is a piece of divine revelation or creative genius—that the words are so inspired they need not be improved upon. Sadly, I have done that a few times. Divine vomit needs cleaning up just as much as the ordinary kind. Honestly, who likes vomit?
Why Bother With Vomiting?
Why not wait until I have a clear thought in my head? Why not do an outline first? Why not? For me, if I waited until I had a clear thought in my head, it would be days before I set my thoughts to paper. Or when the clarity came, I would often be in the middle of my day job. If you have the time and opportunity to always work that way, good for you. As far as outlines go, I sometimes need to vomit my words before I can even do an outline. Throwing up all over the paper may create more than one outline to create articles from different angles.
Daily Exercise of Spewing
This method of spewing words on a page can be a daily exercise for freeing the mind before I do more serious writing. If my goal is to edit a chapter and my mind has prayer needs in my head, I write my prayer, letting my mind wander to other prayer requests. After I have released all the concerns to the Lord on paper, I am ready to tackle that rewrite. If my mind has other writing things calling to me. I jot down that story idea or devotional tidbit, removing from my mind the distracting thoughts that haunt me while I am trying to finish the project before me.
The benefit of spewing those initial thoughts is reaching my goal of writing something every day. If I waited for an assignment or inspiration to write, I find it too easy to neglect writing. Spewing out words helps me develop a daily discipline of writing. Again, I often find gems when I do.
Do you ever vomit on a page? When and how do you use this technique?