Yep. That novel is practically writing itself. Oops, did I say “practically” I meant “literally”, because if that novel is getting written, I sure as hell am not the one doing all the typing.
That’s right, I have fairly little time as it is to write, what with my one-man mission to finish every last game of Spider Solitaire. At this rate, I may get to complete this goal shortly before I die of old age. But you know, it’s wise to have multiple life-goals so when one of them doesn’t work out you can always fall back on another just as easily as falling for another Nigerian-banker-scam.
Most of the time I’m just waiting for the right moment to come along to put the finishing touches on that novel that I’ve barely started. Lucky for me I have a really clear idea of what I should be thinking while I write novels, when I eventually get around to it. yeah, I’ve go it all “up here”… I’ll be all like “I am so writing an awesome novel”. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s what Mark Twain was overheard muttering to himself when he wrote Huck Finn… check his autobiography if you don’t believe me. I don’t have to because I’m just that sure, but you do whatever the hell you like.
Sure, I know you tend to bump into me at the same Starbucks day in day out, but don’t you have anything better to do than to criticize my reliability and constancy? I mean it’s not like you’ve never seen me working, because if you did you’d know that working is exactly what I’m doing right now and that’s why you suck. That, and you deliberately threw out my empty coffee-cup. Now I’m going to have to buy another “Short Americano” or the barista is going to ask me to leave. Thank you very much for that.
If you’re going to write, then write.
No, that’s not right, scratch that. Start with this:
If you’re going to write, then better have a place to put that writing in.
So what is the point? I first thought of this post over morning coffee, no particular day this week.
No laptop… No smartphone to hunt-and-peck a posting full of typos and incoherence… No, oh, let’s be honest: I had something better to do than write a blog post at just the same moment the very idea occurred to me, so how did this posting ever come to be?
I had a notebook… a small notebook and a nubby little pencil that sits in the bottom of my daypack, minding its own business until I need it. I jotted down my idea in 50 words or less, then went back to the thing I really wanted to do.
If there is yet another thing I keep teaching myself over and over is taking a notebook everywhere is my habit, not my hobby. The over all goal is to write a lot more than in the past; that won’t happen unless I provide myself with something to write in! For years upon years I did myself no service by promising myself “I’ll remember it later“… I didn’t. Nobody does. A prize-winning idea or two is lost in the ether every week when relying on memory alone.
I am not a professional, or even a proficient writer, but I am taking a moment to repeat a few things I learn, forget, then learn all over again… daily. Consider the headings below as mantras for the amateur writer.
Less is More
Sometimes you don’t have to describe everything in full, excruciating detail. Leave some of the work up to the reader.
It’s not about you, even when it is about you
Want to know just how boring you are? Go look at your writing, and count the personal pronouns. Nothing bores people like seeing/hearing “I … I … Me … I … Me Me Me!” Try rephrasing some of your sentences them without the personal pronouns.
Opinions: nobody’s asking
Opinions are like sandwiches: if somebody threw it at your head, would you appreciate the free sandwich? Same goes for opinions that pop into your blog feed posing as “analysis” or “discussion” or “facts”. Everybody can make their own sandwich anytime they want, they don’t need yours too.
Everybody likes their own cooking
Of course you like your writing. It’s a touching masterpiece eloquently phrased and humbly presented to worthy readers. What would a reader say about it, especially if they had never read anything by you ever before? If your stories/blogs/books are your children, then learn to look at it without a “parental eye”*.
Why aren’t you writing?
Experts agree, the number one cause of “no writing” is to not write. So close the browser, sharpen your pencil and open a fresh page in your notebook and get going!
* I once read that Stephen King, upon finishing a novel, puts a printed copy in a shoebox and stashes it under the bed for six months so he can read it as if he never wrote it.
Well popular thought says that you need 4,000 hours of practice to become proficient at any field of interest. This is not a hard and fast rule to follow, but it bears up in my mind. You certainly need practice and 4,000 hours of anything is about 100 weeks of 8-hour workdays, five days a week and that feels about right with every job I stuck with for more than two years: I really didn’t hit my stride until the third trip around.
So that is where this blog comes in to play: more practice! With every word typed I feel fractionally more proficient than I was ten minutes ago. Like, about 0.000001% more proficient with each press of the space bar.
While I type I am aware that I am a little in awe of those who get to do this all day long, knowing exactly what they’re going to have at the end of the day… and they get money for it. That is so freaking neat. Maybe I should go to J-school and work my way in to a job like that. The likely outcome is I will find out the picture above is really a romantic ideal of how writing for a living works. Really it isn’t a good idea to look to closely at these things. it is paralyzing to wonder at all the ways things could possibly go wrong.
* Konserthuset is the name of the venue in Stockholm, Sweden where the Nobel Prizes are presented to the winners.