Creating on the fly

Image by Roberto Hund via Pexels

I would sit at the small desk, my back hunched over the best I could manage, and I would write out a sentence or two onto the page. I would stop, look at what I had written, and then erase it, like I wanted to get rid of any evidence that the sentence ever existed. 

Outside of a few of my fellow classmates scribbling feverishly into their notebooks, the class would be so quiet I would be able hear the ticking clock hanging in the front of the class. One tick, two ticks, three ticks, the noise would make me even more nervous and jumpy. 

I would need to start over though because time was running out.

The Highway to Hell

The English 15 class was required of all freshmen and my professor every couple of days would force us to write an in-class assignment for 20 minutes and submit whatever we had written for a quiz grade.

I went into the class thinking I would I would love it. I was a communications major. The class would be right up my alley, right? Nah, to say I hated it is an understatement. The professor would come up with a broad assignment such as write something with a persuasive argument or detailed instructions, but would leave the topic to us. You had to pick quickly and dive right in to give yourself the best chance for success.

For me, it was pure hell!

When you add in, the crazy way the professor graded, my fear of failing, and my indecisiveness at that age, you can understand why I hated it. Finally throw in the fact that it was the first class of the day, beginning promptly at 8:30 in the morning, and it was downright torture. 

Did Hemingway start out like this?

If there was a good thing about the class, it introduced me to quick decision marking. It forced me to put something down on paper and run with it. No dilly-dallying. No waffling. Get something down and stick with it. I learned that it didn’t matter what the great idea in my head was, what mattered was what I got down on paper. The wonderfully creative idea in my head could come or go. It was like a deadbeat dad, you never knew if you could count on it or not. The less-than-perfect sentence on the page could be modified and edited and in the long run possibly turned into something that sang more beautiful than a Mariah Carey high note. 

I learned too that sometimes it’s best to just start writing whatever is on your mind. The writing could be like the old Dick and Jane primers that once upon a time were used to help kids learn to read. For those uninitiated the writing was simple and to the point — “See Dick run. Dick runs fast. Run Dick run.” 

The content didn’t matter, what mattered was getting into a rhythm that would help get the juices flowing. I’m not sure what comes first, great ideas or great writing, it’s a chicken or the egg challenge, but I know for me, it’s best to just start and see how far I can take things. 

Image by Kindel Media via Pexels

People I’ll be leaving out of my Acknowledgements!

I barely “tweaked out” a ‘B’ in the class. I hated that the professor was bored with her job and didn’t care to inspire us or teach us to improve our writing or the love of writing. When I finally write my book one day and it becomes a New York Times Best Seller, I won’t be leaving a swell thank you to her in the acknowledgements section. However, I am glad for one thing: I learned that even with that horrible class, I loved writing and telling a story that touches others. 

I still love where writing can take us. I love too the lessons that writing continues to leave me: try to improve and get better each day, but don’t sweat the big stuff, it will come in due time.

And oh yea, I’ve come to love setting the clock and writing for 20 minutes and seeing where my imagination will take me. Case in point — this column. 

What sparks your creativity? What gets your passions flowing? 


Thank you for reading. Please join in on the discussion on the HoTM site. In addition, please visit my personal blog at or follow me on Instagram at @writingfromtheheartwithbrian.

All the best, Brian.

40 thoughts on “Creating on the fly

  1. It might have been Samuel Johnson who, when asked where his inspiration came from said something like, “I start writing at 7:00 in the morning and the muse has learned to be on time.”

    Keeping writing, Brian! Soon we will see an updated primer that begins, “See Brian write.”

    Liked by 4 people

    1. FYI, it appears that Tchaikovsky and perhaps others have had this quote attributed to them. Tchaikovsky reportedly began to write music at 9:00. Obviously a slacker.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What a slacker. C’mon on Tchaikovsky! Besides the 1812 Overture, what have you produced lately? A little bit of a dry spell, don’t you think? There’s no slacking here. We start at 7 a.m. — which means, if you’re not writing by 6:45 a.m., you’re late! 😎😎😎😎

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I love that line. An editor of mine used to have a mini kid’s cupid arrow on his desk. He would claim to shoot down little muses’ and reporters who didn’t put their butt in their seats and submit their copy on time. I learned that the muse better be on time or I better get good at ducking arrows. Ha, ha.


  2. This reminds me of the days I wrote morning pages as I worked my way through “The Artist’s Way”. I remember one morning in particular when the words flowed something like this: “I hate morning pages. This is stupid, why am I writing this!? I want coffee. This is stupid.” eventually, however, the writing coaxed my thoughts out of the fog. I am inspired to write about things that touch my heart or the pleasingly familiar memories from my past. Always a pleasure to read your posts, Brian.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. There’s a scene from the movie Finding Forrester, where Sean Connery’s character has the young writer copy from Connery’s own work until the writer’s work starts to appear. I’ve always loved the scene. I compare it to what you just described. “I hate writing, this is stupid” and then after enough time, somehow, the real gold starts to appear. I have The Artist’s Way, always wanted to read it, but have never done so. Do you recommend?


  3. Thanks for all of this, Brian. I chuckled…but then was felt a wave of ‘what the heck’ in response to your “Highway to Hell” header describing the woeful lack of inspiration from a teacher about for writing. Geez. What a way to mess with a young man’s confidence at the crack of dawn. 😉 I’m glad you’ve worked through it…look at you now…Mr. “I’ve got 20 minutes and I know how to use it!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember thinking what the heck I was doing. My roommate was giving me a hard time. How could I a comms/journalism major not ace a writing class. Ha, ha. Ugh. I just felt like she was playing with our confidence instead of teaching us ways to get better as writers. Yes, I’m glad I stuck with it too. God knows I had no idea what I was going to do if I changed my major or left college. Yikes.


  4. I can imagine that being torture as a freshman, especially that early in the morning! For me, writing down ideas as and when they come up, in even if in a few words, and then coming back to them at a more structured time helps with the creative process. Looking forward to reading the New York Times best seller :)!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was freaked out reading about your class assignments and the pressure. I dont think I could cope with that. I’d end up stressing and not be able to write anything. I can’t perform to order … even at school in typing class, I’d freeze if the teacher stood behind me. Nope … me and pressure don’t work together. Ironically, I now put my students under pressure … exam practice

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, ha, now the sarcastic side of me would have no problems with putting the students through that pressure. Ha, ha. I get what she was trying to do. I understand the value of quickly organizing your thoughts. The way she graded was just all over the place and made you doubt yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had a French lecturer at uni who would not give anyone more than 55% regardless of how good you were … said he was pushing us to work harder. It may work for some, but it could also be very demoralising for some


      2. Oh, I would’ve hated that. I would’ve dropped him so quickly. I get pushing your students. That’s important, but giving me a bad grade, just to give me a bad grade, no way. If I’ve worked hard and deserve a good grade, give it to me. I would have found the experience very demoralizing.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you about people watching. I’ve been on a writing spree lately. It’s been a lot of fun, but I need a good cafe visit to resupply my list of blog topics. It’s a little crazy, but there’s nothing like watching others to help with the brainstorming and idea generation. Right there with you LA

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I also tend to be indecisive, so that class would have been rough for me. I’m glad you stuck it out and chose to stay in Communications. I’ll need to try setting a timer and writing, without the pressure of a demanding professor, to see what shows up for me. It’s an exercise I haven’t done in years, but could be interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I find that being cognizant of time (you don’t necessarily need a timer) helps cut down on the need to be perfect that you wrote about so eloquently yesterday. I’m sure your blog experience has made you much more decisive writer than you may think. I know that’s what I’ve found. 😎😎

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You make a great point about blogging. Sometimes I want to write *something* and when the muse isn’t showing up with the answer, you just get to work and see what comes of it. And, occasionally, we may be pleasantly surprised by what we come up with! 😎

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m not sure I would have lasted in that class! Good for you though- you took the concept and made it work for you. You probably deserve an A for that but sadly I wasn’t your professor 😉 I suppose I use a form of this “just write” concept Brian. If I can eek out even a briefly reliable topic and thought pattern I do get those things down, then usually walk away and think. I am known to revise many, many times which I guess you can call my ‘process’, all the while hoping it will all come together 😉


    1. The writing assignments mixed with the prof’s inconsistent grading caused me lots of headaches. In some ways, it prepared me for blog writing. No matter the hits or views or bad prof grade . . . I had to think about whether I was happy with the piece. And yes, I’m like you, I need to get it down on paper first and then come back and tweak. I followed the same pattern even as a reporter years ago, when we didn’t have a ton of time for drafts. Ha, ha.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, it’s the getting something down, even if only 1 sentence to begin the process! I remember that with academic writing and research. I needed a swift kick to get the thesis statement on paper. The rest was a breeze 😉

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, there were a certain number of liberal arts credits you had to take. Of course, I must admit some idiocy on my part. I assumed that as a communications major, the class would be a cake walk for me. Ugh. Talk about a wake-up call! Ha, ha. And I do find it funny, my college years are always easy to write about. I’ve gotten so many stories from the experience. I guess it’s good to be able to laugh at yourself. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Love this post – good writing as something between a deadbeat dad and a Mariah Carey high note. What a great post about learning in all situations – even a terrible class and a disinterested professor! And that is one of your many attributes that is going to be behind your NY Times bestseller! 🙂 ❤


  9. As a consummate B+ student in college I wise enough to know that striving for great grades isn’t the way of creative souls. But the college profs sure did try to sell me on the idea that they were right, even while not caring one wit about me. Kind of a primer for adult life in the workplace, actually.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So true Ally. I found for me the best teachers were the ones who taught me something I didn’t know, demanded a strong work ethic . . . but cared immensely about helping me achieve my goals and me as a person. I found a few of them in college, wish I had found more.


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