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Book Review: Bang the Keys: Four Steps to a Lifelong Writing Practice by Jill Dearman

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Bang the Keys is more than the four steps to a lifelong writing practice promised by the title. The “bang” acronym may become a way of life for you. I won’t reveal the acronym’s meaning, for fear of over-simplifying the author’s powerful concepts. She put a great deal of thought into the progression of steps in the creative process. BANG is a clever acronym for her success formula, four steps to start AND finish every writing project.

You’ll find many reasons to bang the keys faster, whether you use typewriter or computer, when you apply her concepts. You can use them as you write every draft, and for every project, again and again, each time you connect with your true writing self.

Dearman uses another revealing concept to help identify your writing personality. She explains four personality types,

  • Distractionist,
  • Dictator,
  • Perfectionist, and
  • Commitment-phobe.

You’ll find yourself in there somewhere, maybe even flipping types on a rough day. Whatever your weakness, you’ll be motivated when Dearman quotes a novelist, Cecil Castellucci saying: “No one gets to read the book if you don’t finish it.”

Use one of your literary heroes to motivate you, as Dearman does, by keeping Susan Sontag in mind. The author heard Sontag speak once and recalls the author’s response when asked the eternal question about what inspires her to write. Dearman recalls: “She explained that when she sits down to write, even now, (past age 60), she imagines that the writers she loved as a child – visionary poet William Blake, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, the great Russian writers, are watching her. She told us that she feels a need to please them, to live up to their high expectations of her.”

Dearman imagines Sontag saying to her: “Make a decision. Stand by it. If you need to reverse yourself later… then that is what you will do. But for now: write… with conviction, woman!”

Even practiced writers will appreciate the author’s take on the nuts and bolts of narrative, and she offers an interesting formula for plot development.

Writing from personal experience, Dearman relates a situation that had her spinning, but when she sat down to write, clarity spoke. As a result she learned:
“Anxiety creates a barrier between a writer and her creativity. Remove the anxiety, the creativity flows.”

The author’s casual writing style may not appeal to everyone, but if you want to kick into gear every time you sit down to write, Bang the Keys provides a strategy to get you there.

This 2009 edition of Bang the Keys includes clever ways to get your social networking friends to provide input when you’re stuck on character development or all tangled up in plot.

Some material in this book is relevant to all writers. Fiction writers especially, and those grappling with how to organize the writing process will appreciate Dearman’s efforts here.

Bang the Keys also includes practical exercises and goal setting techniques created by a writer who knows what it takes to commit to a project and see it through to the end.

Follow her there.

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About Helen Gallagher