Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

The Answer

From my Inspiration panel, from a friend’s LJ where a lot of people seem to be asking about inspiration and motivation, from my writer’s workshops and all, the most common question aspiring writers seem to ask is “How do you motivate yourself to write?” There are variations on this: “How do you find the time?” or “How do you find the energy?” or “I always have shopping/chores/friends/meals/classes/movies/ninjas taking up all my time, so I can’t set aside time to write. What do you suggest?”

I know that everyone wants a magic bullet. They want me to say, “Oh, I learned this ancient Navajo trick of focusing my mind on writing that allows me to be amazingly productive. I learned it from Stephen King’s book “On Writing.” It’s at the beginning of Chapter 3. Just recite those lines whenever you want to write and your mind will be clear and the words will come.” Or something.

The answer is simple, but it’s not easy. You have to get into the practice of writing. It’s as simple as that. Develop it as a habit. Your body and mind form habits easily. The more you do something, the more you will expect to be doing it. But at the beginning, you have to force yourself in order to acquire the habit. So I’ll tell you what every other writer will tell you: make time to write.

Okay, you’re nodding, but you’re not listening. Make Time To Write.

You know best how you can accomplish this. If writing is important to you, you will figure out how to squeeze time out of your day. Maybe you’ll set aside an hour a day, or an hour and a half a day. Maybe you’d rather do a four hour block once a week. Maybe you can work it out twice a week. However you work it, make sure that you can observe that time, come what may. Because if you skip it just once, it’ll become easier to skip it next time, and before you know it, you’re saying, “what’s the point, I’m not getting anything done,” and you look up at the calendar and it’s been six months since you wrote.

Once you get into the habit of writing, you can become more loose with your schedule–you can fit your writing into your day, rather than fitting your day around your writing. But to start with, to get writing ingrained into your routine, be rigid with it.

You will hear this same advice over and over and over again. The other part of it is: if writing is important to you, you will make time to do it. The converse, the part that people don’t want to hear, is that if you aren’t making time to do it, then it isn’t important to you. “But,” they say, “it is important, it’s just that I have all this other stuff/I can’t think of anything to write.” Look, it’s okay. You make your decisions based on what’s important to you, not what should be or what you want to be. If writing is important to you, you’ll do it. If it’s making you terribly unhappy not to be writing, look at the things you can give up to make time for writing. Would giving any of them up make you more unhappy? Is there just one you could give up?

It sounds silly, and trite, but the line from one of my favorite movies is a great one here: “A writer writes.”

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3 responses to “The Answer

  1. Erin November 25, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    You’re absolutely right.I have two small children, and I’ve written the better part of three novels – all since they were born. (Only one is in print – one is abandoned and the third is about two-thirds done.) How did I do it?I’m a teacher for my day job, and that doesn’t leave me much time during the school year. So I use my summers. I let family members look after my kids for a few hours a few times a week, and I write a few thousand words. During afternoon nap times, I write a few thousand more. I get up early to write. I take my notebook with me to the park, and while the girls are running around, I keep one eye on them and one eye on the notebook as I fill it with plot ideas, themes, twists, character notes, and what have you. I estimate I actually wrote about fifteen hours a week this past summer, sometimes twenty, sometimes ten – but I didn’t let it slide.During the school year, I have the choice between neglecting my demanding, emotionally-draining job to write, or neglecting my kids to write, so I don’t do either. This year, I’m concentrating on worldbuilding in preparation for next summer’s novel – the first one that won’t be set in the world of a role-playing game.

  2. Tim Susman November 25, 2007 at 11:33 pm

    That’s very cool. Congratulations on your accomplishments and dedication! What’s the info on your novel in print? I plug my book enough, I should be willing to look at other people’s. :)

  3. Erin November 27, 2007 at 12:24 am

    Here it is! You may have seen it at Anthrocon – Rafferty had them out on the Sanguine table, and Lex Rudd was around signing them, as she did the cover.

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