Writing: The Raw and the Cooked

We all hear about how to improve our diets by eating unprocessed, “cleaner,” whole foods. Similarly, allowing ourselves to write “raw,” to release our fresh, unprocessed voices onto the page, can bring a boost of energy and a new sense of authenticity to our work.

For years you’ve been told how to write correctly, professionally. For years you’ve been learning to tone it down, polish it up, censor your thoughts. The more you try to write the way (you think) other people want you to write, the less your true voice comes through. Learning how to write raw is a process of breaking through the imagined voices, and learning fresh ways to say what you mean.

nothingtowritingWhen we write raw, we block out all those voices, filter the impurities, so that the only voice guiding us down the page is our own. We don’t need to know where we’re going to end up. We don’t have to know, before we uncap the pen or switch on the laptop, whether we are going to write a poem or a sonnet or an epic, or whether our paragraph is going to be the lead or the conclusion, or a vision in one of our character’s dreams.

We ignore the rules. We pay no mind to punctuation, spelling, the pursuit of the perfect phrase. We fly. We scream. Your short stories, essays, novels soar because they are founded upon passion and intuition and built with reality and truth. And this goes for any communications, really. Your final draft might not be dripping blood, but you’ll start from a place of power. Harness it, don’t shut it down before you even begin.

Writing raw is transcribing pure feeling. A passage sears a nerve when it describes an experience as it really happened. An essay moves when you can feel the author’s adrenaline in your own veins, because the moment was described with language that rebels against the reader’s sense of what they are going to see on the page next.

To write raw, we must think raw. To break the rules on the page we need to challenge the way we’ve been trained to think. And that starts with giving yourself permission.

Like Dorothy, we sometimes need a Good Witch to point out the obvious: We have all the tools we need to write in color. Emeralds, rubies, yellow brick roads, passionate memories, heartrending stories, joy and bliss and devastation are woven into our expository souls, but after years of dimming our own rainbows we start to see in black and white.

Once we feel free to break the writing rules, we can start playing with the language, rebelling against the society-safe syntax. We start writing dialogue that actually sounds like conversation: staccato, half-thoughts, half-truths and rants; discourse as full of what we don’t want to say as what makes it to the page. We integrate inflection and slang.

Overcooking – or even, I’ve read, cooking at all – can remove valuable nutrients, dilute the impact, dampen the color. If you are looking for a way to write with more punch and vibrancy, scale down your process and go for the bold.


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