Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream
Ever wondered why liquid nitrogen is used to make ice cream? You see it increasingly displayed in shop windows as a drawcard to enter. Bubbling gas spilling over a bowl, rapidly freezing custard before your eyes. Kids certainly find it thrilling to watch. There’s a mystical quality about it. But does it make better ice cream? Yes, the science behind making velvety smooth ice cream is sound. It has to do with what shouldn’t be in the mix. Secrets to writing faster and better is similar.
What normally happens when you make ice cream yourself: the mixture sets it in the freezer and water crystals form. It’s these crystals that make it lumpy. But freeze it quickly, say, using liquid nitrogen and the water doesn’t have time to crystallise to the point where you feel it (the same reason particle accelerators make the smoothest chocolate and better tasting beer).
Secrets to writing faster is to think ahead and capture perfect moments
The rapid setting of an idea without conscious editing happens when you’re busy typing and thinking ahead; pure strain of uninterrupted thought. Those ‘um’ ideas and word fillers (‘that’ is one word you should use less. I used ‘that’ three times in this blog) are less inclined to leech in and make your writing lumpy. Sure, you have to go over it to check for mistakes once you’re done, but the essence of the idea is captured. Often to go back and mess around with it too much destroys the quality of the writing to editing.
A few books come to mind: Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was written in some insane short length of time, and King’s Carrie I think was written in the time it takes most people to think of what to write about. Both classics. But enough about the Gods, we only need a sample taste.
So how do you write faster and better?
Let go. Okay, it’s not so simple as letting go. I don’t profess to know how it applies to everyone, but the ideas below apply to most. They work for me:
- Don’t force it. Writing should be like skimming rocks over water or reading a book (actually, if writing is tedious or difficult. Stop! Do something else). You must like it. If it’s just a bad day you’re having, kick the tyres and edit, rework or plan out the next chapter/book.
- If you start writing fast, don’t stop. This is important. You may find yourself writing five or six pages in a very short time. Keep going until you slow. I walk away for a few minutes when my writing session has peaked; better to leave and come back on a high, than on a low and come back staring up at a hill. Rarely do I write with any great speed for extended periods, more sputters and spurts.
- Write what’s on the tip of your tongue. Trust your gut. Write what first comes to mind, don’t delete and think about it. I bumped into a character of my book by having my protagonist walk into a bar. He popped out from nowhere. I would have missed him if I questioned the appropriateness of his presence in the scene.
- Block out everything around you. Focus on your screen and keyboard. Block out all peripheral noise. Rome might be crumbling but you don’t notice because you are engulfed by your thoughts. Let your coffee go cold.
- Read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. A strange step but worth it. His writing has a smooth feel to it. He’s almost certainly worked tight deadlines before as a journalist. Gladwell lays out his idea of instant recognition as a valuable tool in decision-making though many detailed examples. If we think too much a truth is lost. From spotting art forgeries to police shootings and selecting musicians for an orchestra (even how a therapist after many years of experience can tell with a high degree of accuracy if a couple will stay together or not simply by observing how they eat together). The quintessential trust your (educated) gut argument.
Also, never underestimate the role experience plays when it comes to writing faster; the more you practise the better you become. Set a goal to write a page in under two minutes. Your first and second attempts may not be great, but your writing will get better in time. And remember, the scientists over at the particle accelerator (Large Hadron Collider) at CERN have access to the smoothest chocolate and best tasting beer in the world.
Also published on Medium.