Friday, January 11, 2013

The Best Writing Advice You'll Ever Ignore

I've been thinking of posting this for a while, but earlier in the year I was in a bit of a funk and it was all I could do to meet my deadlines - which is too bad, because I could have used the reminder.

Here's the advice, in short: WRITE EVERY DAY.

Write some words each day, whether it's 100 or 10,000, no matter how arduous, no matter how hard you have to clench your teeth, no matter if you have to clamp your hands over your ears to drown out the derisive inner voices.

I don't care if you have a job. I don't care if you have kids. I don't care if you have three jobs and eleven kids because, my friend, the book doesn't care about that either. The book only cares if you feed its hungry maw, and if you just pop in ever few days or weeks or whenever the muse speaks or the planets align or the kids leave you in peace or your ex stops being an asshole, the book will punish you like a pit bull left on a choke chain in the rain all day while you go do lines in the bathroom of the corner bar.

Actually, the book will do you worse than that: it will freeze you cold. You'll come back ready to go and there will be nothing, a frozen tundra of zero, an absence of inspiration so deep and so dark it's like the bottom of the sea where only prehistoric blind mud creatures will keep you company and even they will turn away because they will KNOW that you are not worthy.

Think I'm being tough? Well, yeah, but I save my most painful scorn for myself. Because I ignore this advice too. Not as much as most of you, probably - I can count the days I took off last year on my kids'  fingers and toes - but I do it. In fact, we *all* do it. Most of my writing friends agree with this advice, but we all fall off the horse, no matter how sterling our intentions.

There are plenty of authors who don't agree with this advice, and feel free to seek them out to make you feel better if you don't want to believe me. But let me ask you this - what do you think of their work? When did they last have a book out? Do they give interviews where they talk about a writer's "sacred space" and the necessity of days spent doing nothing more than thinking and "letting the story come to them"?

I guess I've probably alienated most of you by now, and I probably deserve it, especially because my frustration is directed about 65% at myself for constantly ignoring my own advice. But seriously. Be the person who shows up in the chair every day, and you'll amaze yourself. You'll write circles around the rest of us and you'll earn the right to smirk - and perhaps you'll even be gracious about it, and then you can teach me to do the same.



Anonymous said...

Put your butt in the chair and write!
Best advice ever. I DO NOT want to face the prehistoric mud creatures at the bottom of the sea.
Jessi McBrayer

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Put your butt in the chair and write!
Best advice ever. I DO NOT want to face the prehistoric mud creatures at the bottom of the sea.
Jessi McBrayer

Terry Shames said...

I have writer friends who sometimes ask me how I can be so prolific (two books coming out, two books being shopped by my agent). You know how? I write every day. Some days the words look like little piles of something nasty, but I'm with you Sophie, that if you don't keep the pump primed, you're going to pay for it down the road.

Get with it, girl!

Mysti said...

Yay! I banged my head against rewrites every day for three solid days...and on day four, light dawned.

Once the writing muscles get cold, they take *forever* to warm up.

Thanks for the inspiration!

Catherine said...

I am an unpublished at home mom. Writing is now my full time job. Thank you for the inspiration.

Judith Starkston said...

Yup. You said it. Indeed the best writing advice and least followed by me. Thanks for the reminder