New Writing Insights

Time Yourself! Seventeen Minutes—in Blog Posting and Songwriting

My friend and colleague Pat Pattison and I were sitting around the other day with a couple of other songwriting teachers, eating Pat’s delicious fish soup and a piece of Stilton to die for. (That’s the telling detail that puts you in the room, the descriptive paint that drips down and saturates the rest of this somewhat abstract post with sensory detail and “compelling verisimilitude.” By the way, that metaphor comes from Pat too.) We were discussing object writing, an associative, sensory writing technique Pat discusses in several of his books. He first introduced the technique in Writing Better Lyrics (Writer’s Digest Books, make sure to get the 2nd edition). This single exercise has dramatically transformed the writing practice of probably thousands of songwriters.

I’m know the creative writing world has developed hundreds of writing exercises, games, prompts, etc. I’d always assumed that Pat, having been trained in literary criticism and theory, had adapted some general creative writing techniques and exercises to the world of songwriting with object writing. But he claims it is truly his invention—and was invented specifically for songwriting. In particular, and somewhat to my surprise, he pointed out that timed writing—especially the idea of practicing object writing by writing to different lengths of time (10 minutes, 5 minutes, 1 minute)—an integral part of the technique, is an aspect he developed.

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