Writing Within Two Systems
About a week ago, Joe Bunting (thewritepractice.com) put up a prompt on Writing Fast and Slow.
I’ve certainly heard of the two sides of the creative mind, but when it comes to writing, I thought Joe put it really well. He refers to them as “systems” (which he gets from Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow). Here’s some of what he had to say:
Creativity is about bringing several different ideas into a single thought, and this is where System 1 thrives. While System 2 is a focused, precise engineer, solving any problem set before her, System 1 is a fun, spontaneous artist splashing paint on the walls and making messes.
… let each system do what it does best. Keep System 2 out of the writing room, which can be reserved for making messes. Then bring System 2 back in for cleanup.
Because it turns out that System 2 is a much better editor than System 1. It will spot your typos and errors in logic. It will clean up your copy and make sure your writing is readable. System 2 may not be very creative, but it will certainly keep you from looking like a fool.
One of the biggest temptations for writers is to start in System 1 and then get caught up in editing and perfecting before they finish. I know this happens to me almost every time I write. This tends to result in unfinished work.
Joe went on to offer 5 suggestions to help keep writers from dipping into system 2 too soon (for a full explanation of each step be sure to jump over to his post):
2. Write What You Know
3. Keep Your Pen Moving
4. Don’t Overthink
5. Find Your Writing Workspace
Every post Joe publishes comes with a 15-minute writing prompt. With the two systems in mind, he encouraged the following prompt:
Free write for fifteen minutes using the words orange, sweat, coin, and elm.
As you write, try to stay in System 1 using the tips above. When your time is up, edit your writing using System 2.
I decided to try my patience and knee-jerk addiction to editing before completion. Click the link below titled “Orange, Sweat, Coin, Elm.” On the left is me free-writing within System 1 for 17 minutes. To the right of it is me editing and re-writing within System 2. It was fun to watch how the story evolved between the systems when I kept myself dedicated. The story is simple stream of consciousness. I encourage you to give System 1 and System 2 a try, and I’d love to hear what you went through and how you saw your story change. Cheers!