Poet Kim Addonizio, in her book Ordinary Genius, challenges the conventional notion of first thought, best thought when it applies to writing. Her mind is full of what she calls "received thoughts" when she sits down to write. Sayings, slogans and jingles come to mind. I find those and other preoccupations, too.
I used to ignore such thoughts and write past them. Since they didn't pertain to my project at hand, they shouldn't get in the way. Or so I thought.
Novelist Janet Fitch has said famously that a cliché in fiction is anything that has been said once. My early drafts can be littered with clichés and personal writing tics. While my training has taught me how to edit such phrases, this can be time-consuming. I've been thinking about how I might clean up my initial drafts as I write them. If I cleared the clutter early, could the execution and conceptualization both improve? Could I create a better first draft?
Sometimes, there are advantages to getting any draft on the page. Something on the page tends to be more useful than nothing. This exercise is about improving the effectiveness of the writing session.
Here's the technique I've been trying out. It's simple. Take a received thought--a scrap from a TV show or commercial, a song, the plot synopsis from a book you just read about online, whatever is distracting you--and use it as a starting point for a short poem or piece of prose. Give the clutter its day in the sun. And then put it away.
Since starting this practice at the start of this month, I have more creative and analytical focus for the writing project at hand. Some of the fragments I create from this process have some intrigue on their own. Maybe I'll find a way to up-cycle or recycle them. For now, I'm glad they're happy and leaving me alone to write.