The Harder You Squeeze | How To Write

Received an email from a participant on the How To Write course I recorded for The Idler. It was about one of the exercises I provided, requiring participants to write a refutation of something important to them.

Here’s what the email said, edited to remove identifying specifics.

Just completed the refutation. Was challenging initially to find an article that I was moved to refute. It was good to be reminded to focus on what I was passionate about, because this did make it easier.

I finally found a perspective that took an extreme view on my topic of interest: XXXXXX Being forced to re-capitulate (and “steel-man”) this argument, and then to honestly and meticulously refute it really made me think about and articulate why I believe what I believe about XXXXX.

Once I started going down this rabbit hole, I realized I had a lot to say about the subject and that these ideas underpin quite a lot of the fiction I have been struggling to complete. I emerged with a 7-page thesis which (though probably excessive for an exercise) establishes a strong and articulate foundation of ideas which will inform my work going forward.

So thank you for this assignment! I did not expect it to pay these kinds of dividends.

I was thrilled to read this. It confirmed what I have long believed about the creative power of constraints: the more you’re squeezed, the more comes out.


Speaking of squeezing, here’s a drawing from my series of Yoga For The Very Serious Indeed:


And, in case you haven’t done it already, here’s a link to The Idler course, How To Write With John-Paul Flintoff.