Writing with Power: Techniques for mastering the process – Peter Elbow (Part 1)

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Now that Nano Wrimo is over and done with and there are plot wrimos going on in your head, a little bit of direction for future writathons would be a good thing. Writing with Power is a book on writing you can read and really appreciate if you have attempted to write a book or taken writing seriously at any point in your life.


We can get into a diatribe about how writing about writing has spurned off an industry that teaches writing and profits from it, but Writing with Power is an old book and the only ulterior motive this writer has is genuine interest in bettering the lot of potential writers.

Like any good old teacher, Elbow doesn’t talk about the Power until he takes his students through the brick and mortar of the architecture of writing. It’s two muscles really – the creating muscle and the critiquing muscle. Too much of one or the other and you can stick to your day job forever.

This is such a densely packed book- full of detailed ideas and Elbow writes like a teacher would– in a very methodical manner. You would do good by ploughing through his concentrated prose as he talks about everything new age writer motivators blog about today, only in more detail.

For instance, what is free writing? It’s nothing new- it’s the writing push-ups that can push out resistance you have to your own writing.  When you write without stopping for ten minutes, you can be assured that you will write something. It may be a rudderless journey but if you stick with it, something is bound to come out.

Practice seems to break the writing iceberg.

Direct writing is different from the rambling stream of consciousness technique of free writing.  It’s a way of putting your thoughts down and always returning to the theme- no detours. This technique is useful when you are writing for a deadline. Creating outlines is a good way of getting your content together in some kind of readable form. You can also write in alternate forms or use an opposing point of view to arrive at the centre of gravity of your write-up.

Loop writing is new to me. It’s a bit of the free write and the direct write. So you voyage out with your theme and then you home back into it.


How do you Loop Write? Suppose you have to write about Racism. What are the first thoughts that come to your mind when you think about it? Write all of it down. Then write from the opposing camp like a racist would in favor of racism. You’ll be surprised by the kind of ideas you may have before you do any research.

Now you know exactly what questions you need to ask so that you do your research correctly. Many times you don’t know where to start research and you read in all kinds of wrong directions until you are left with one frustrated writer- you!

If free writing and looping still don’t get you into steamroller writer mode, you can use the good old prompt and there are a ton of those now that flood your inbox besides the prompts that show up in your everyday life.  You may not be a fan of the prompt, but sometimes an outlandish nudge like say a chit that unfolds into ‘WIG’ can flex your writing muscles like nothing else.

I really like this book.

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  1. Pingback: Eleven Takeaways from Writing Reviews of Books on Writing | InstaScribe

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