Saturday, September 12, 2009


"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." ~Jack London

Writing is hard work. It just is. Sure, I live for those moments when I'm buzzing with creativity and my fingers can't dance across the keyboard fast enough to catch the words fluttering around in my head. But when that doesn't happen, writing feels like a job.

I think the hardest part about writing is getting into the habit of it, the routine. Forcing yourself to simply sit down and write, even when you don't feel like writing. It's a common tale in an author's life, treating writing much like a job: Before John Grisham was "John Grisham," he was a hard-working lawyer. But he carved out time in his day to write. He woke up at 4am, and wrote for an hour every morning. Now, that's dedication. Or insanity. I'm not sure which...

My proudest moment as a writer, as far as dedication goes, was this past summer. I had exactly 6 weeks left of summer before my classes started, and I knew that once school kicked in, I would not have the time/energy to write. I know myself too well. So - I knuckled down. I brainstormed, threw ideas around, formed a rough outline, and BEGAN. A nearly-400-page novel was my goal. It seemed impossible, but I was determined. I set a goal of 10 pages of writing per day. I didn't always meet that goal, but I got very close. The weekend before my faculty meetings, I wrote 60 pages. I was mentally fractured and exhausted. But I had done it. I met my goal and finished my rough draft. And more than anything, I proved to myself that I could do it.

Three things helped me more than anything else, during those 6 weeks. One was Stephen King's advice (from his book, "On Writing," I believe): Paraphrased from memory -- Never end a chapter at the end of a writing day. Always at least start the next section or chapter - even just one sentence - so that when you come back and sit down the next day, something new is there. Something you can work with. That advice was immensely helpful.

The second thing seems simple and even a bit silly - I rewarded myself. I told myself that IF I completed a scene or a chapter or met my goal for the day, I could have chocolate, or could go to a restaurant, or could even watch a t.v. show I'd been eager to see. Anything, no matter how insignificant, will do. As long as it's something desirable. Hold it like a carrot above your head as you write and know that when you meet your goal, you can take a nice, big, crunchy bite out of it.

The third thing that helped me was that on those days when I didn't feel like writing a single sentence, I let myself off the hook a little. I made a pact with myself, that I wouldn't have to write that day -- but, that I would have to sit down and at least read what I'd written the day before. And do you know what happened? Every single time I sat down and opened my laptop to glance at yesterday's work - inevitably, I would find myself writing. I would get absorbed back into the story and characters and new ideas would start to form. And my fingers would dance again.

1 comment:

  1. I remember writers sharing that same advice at conferences, etc. To write each day, to write 'something'. And nothing wrong with a little treat when you accomplish your goal!