Welcome to WritingInOverdrive.com!

ABOUT THIS WEBSITE: I created WritingInOverdrive.com to help writers discover how to “write in overdrive” — that is, how to write faster, write freely, and write brilliantly. Here I will share with you the superpower I discovered by accident. I hope this revolutionary approach to writing will become your superpower as well.

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See what other writers are saying about my books: Here’s the Goodreads page for Writing in Overdrive. And here are the customer reviews for Writing in Overdrive at Amazon.com.

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Tell me about your writing struggles and perhaps I’ll post the solution to your problem.

Come back often. Let’s get acquainted.

—Jim Denney

2 thoughts on “Welcome to WritingInOverdrive.com!

  1. Hello Jim,

    I’ve started doing my own research related to working from the unconscious and ran across your website a few months ago. I’ve found your posts particularly inspiring, especially “The Marriage of Conscious and Unconscious” and “Bob Dylan.” So much of what you wrote resonated with the ideas I’ve been piecing together about the creative process.

    That being said, I’m not actually a writer. I’m a painter who has been trying to overcome my perfectionist tendencies. I’ve developed the terrible habit of becoming what you described as a basher in “A Writer’s Superpower.” I understand there’s nothing inherently wrong with working that way, but I think it brings out the worst of my habits. I often get stuck for days just pushing around the same paint. There have been a few times before I accidentally accessed a swooper-type frame of mind and my work just seemed to burst with life. I’m trying to get back to that way of working.

    So much of your method boils down to working quickly and not judging your work. Using clear daily goal such as a word count gives you a linear way to define a successful day. It helps eternalize your focus. Trying to meet that target helps enforce many of the other ideas you wrote about such as eliminating multitasking and pushing yourself to write quickly. It can also encourage you to look at your work through a more playful lens which helps with perfectionism.

    So here’s my question, how would you adapt your method for other types of creatives? As an artist, I don’t have any word count equivalent to help me measure success. Rather, my definition of success currently comes from an internal place of judgment. This unfortunately encourages all my bad habits (perfectionism, obsession over the details, and self-doubt) to take hold. I always start with the intention to paint quickly and not overthinking things, but I inevitably end up in a palace of infinite second-guessing at the end. It often leaves me feeling like I’m treading water – exerting all my energy just to be stuck in the same place.

    I do believe there’s a way artists can access overdrive. John Singer Sargent, a prolific, traditional painter, seems to have found a way to do it. He worked quickly and intensely on his pieces, almost as if in a state of flow. He always tried to avoid picking at a painting (what he called “brushing together”) and rather would entirely start over or scrape away sections of his work. I greatly admire his method and have tried it myself. The issue always seems to be that I don’t realize I’ve been “brushing together” until it’s too late. That reminds me of a quote by painter Richard Schmid, “It often takes two to do a good painting – one to paint it, and another to rap the painter smartly with a hammer before he or she can ruin it.”

    I’m someone who values high-quality work, but clearly the way I’m doing things now is not sustainable. I’m very worried that if I let go of my perfectionism and that my work will suffer. You seemed to dispute that in part one of “A Writer’s Superpower.” Do you have any additional advice?

    Thank you for your time and inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I apologize for the delay in replying, due to a deadline crunch.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments and questions about the Writing in Overdrive concept! I appreciate your thoughts on my blog posts, and I’m glad you found them helpful.

    I have been thinking in recent months about applying these concepts to the visual arts, so your question comes at a good time. I used to do a fair amount of cartooning and even tried painting, both oils and acrylics, many years ago. When I tried to do some drawings recently, after years of inactivity, I found that my drawing skill and confidence had atrophied. So I bought a book in the hopes of rediscovering my lost ability to draw.

    The book is called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. Are you familiar with it? I started to read and work my way through it (the book has practical exercises to do as you apply the principles you are learning), but I didn’t get very far before the aforementioned deadline crunch pushed it aside. I plan to return to it soon.

    I think Betty Edwards is working in the same realm of dual approaches to creativity — intellectual versus intuitive, conscious versus unconscious. She labels these dual approaches “left side” and “right side” of the brain. I think her practical exercises might be of use to you, along with her insights. I’m not far enough into the book to fully endorse it, but I like where it’s heading so far.

    I just downloaded the Krita digital painting software at https://krita.org/en/download/krita-desktop/. I would like to try my hand at “painting” with a mouse and computer screen. I’ve never tried it before and don’t know how it will work. But I like to experiment. Krita is free open source software. It has a full range of brushes and textures and colors, plus you can undo a mistake with a mouse click. You might give it a try as practice for painting on canvases. By working in an environment where you can’t ruin a canvas or waste paint, it might free up your imagination and build your confidence. Having practiced the painting on your computer screen, you might be able to create it in bold, confident strokes on your canvas.

    Your John Singer Sargent story is fascinating and inspiring. I will have to look for his work. And your Richard Schmid quote reminds me of a story I heard long ago. I can’t remember where I heard it, but I have told it in writers workshops.

    A kindergarten teacher was known for having the best student artwork in the school. The finger-paintings posted on her classroom wall were beautiful and vibrant with bold colors. The paintings in the neighboring kindergarten classrooms tended to be muddy-looking and uninteresting. Someone asked, “What’s your secret?” She replied that her secret was knowing when to say, “Oh, that’s beautiful!” and take the painting away from the student.

    A thought on perfectionism: In writing, the most extreme form of obsessive perfectionism would involve trying to get every sentence perfect before you go on to the next sentence. It’s kind of like trying to write a good story with a harsh critic perched over your shoulder, saying, “That’s not the right word. You call that a sentence? Such amateurish writing!” That kind of inner criticism, in the midst of the act of creation, can paralyze a writer.

    So my goal is to silence that inner critic, the conscious intellect. Once the conscious intellect is out of the way, the creative unconscious mind is free to perform brilliantly and without inhibition. There will be mistakes and a few words out of place, but there will also be energy and passion and dynamism.

    In writing, you go for energy and uninhibited passion in the first draft. Then you allow the conscious intellect to critique and nitpick and edit in later drafts.

    Is there a parallel process in the visual arts? I suppose your painting begins with an initial sketch, which should be dynamic and uninhibited, like the first draft in writing. Then, when you begin applying paint, your initial brush strokes should be bold and confident, not tentative or self-critical.

    In writing, there’s an obvious place in the process where we invite the conscious intellect to begin fine-tuning what the creative unconscious has produced: the rewrite or second draft.

    Is there a comparable stage in the creation of a painting? I don’t know. But if so, there needs to be a point where the conscious intellect stops fiddling with the painting, a point where you realize that anything you do from now on will only deaden the energy and passion of the bold and confident brushstrokes you began with.

    Those are my initial thoughts. Please let me know if you were able to turn any of these thoughts into insights for your art.

    God bless and inspire you!
    Jim Denney


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