Please allow me another short break from my usual post. I have decided to share a short creative non-fiction piece that came out of a “Try It” exercise in the book Tell It Slant: Creating, Refining, and Publishing Creative Nonfiction, by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola.
The prompt was: Take a writing session to observe everything you do around writing. What is your routine? How does it serve or sabotage you? What keeps you from writing? What helps you? What happens when you change your routine?
And the winner is…
Bum in chair is the hardest. No. That is not it. Bum in chair without an idea is. No, scratch that. Bum in chair without a deadline is the toughest.
Deadlines are a magnet for my butt. Sometimes I know what I am going to write; other times there is only a morsel swirling around. On those hazy idea days I can still get there by telling myself, “Write for 20 minutes, if nothing comes you can stop.” Three hours later, I am squirming doing the full bladder dance, but my fingers are still tap, tap, tapping away.
But what about when there is no one waiting for my words? When it is all up to me to write about…to write about…what?
Uh-oh, here it comes.
Is it a marketable idea? Where are you going with it? How do you plan to write an entire story? You know how to write a first chapter, but what about all the chapters after that? How many words were in that last book you read? 389 pages! Are you crazy?
You need to order another how-to book, that is what you need to do. Maybe this one will tell you how to plan out a novel. What about outlines? Remember the author who said he spent over a month on one? Wait a minute. How do you even write an outline? The last one you wrote must have been in junior high. Thirty years ago. And even then you did not know how to write them, remember? You cheated and only wrote the outline after the paper was done.
No, just start to write. Not everyone uses an outline. Remember the term you found on some writer’s blog? Pantster. That is you. Once you start writing, the words come. You just need to let it spill out. Park the old left brain and write.
Quit getting so caught up in the length. Remember those youth books you took out of the library? They do not scare you. Start there. The last chapter is not that far away. You can do it. Just get to the end once. Just one time, so you know you can do it
And while you are at it, would you please stop listening to all that gobbledygook in your head. It just makes your bum allergic to your chair.
“It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.” — C. J. Cherryh
“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.” — Ernest Hemingway
“Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.” — Barbara Kingsolver
“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” — E. L. Doctorow
“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.” — William Faulkner
“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.” — Allen Ginsberg, WD