Hey, fellow Writerly Women! We've been talking a lot about the art of writing, which is one of my favorite topics in LIFE. But after a recent conversation with former client and still amazing friend Leslie, I realized we might need to pause to discuss another subject that isn't as much fun for us writers to consider.
She and I were talking about the way ideas were popping up for her and how she wanted to run with them, and I said, "You really have the mind of a writer."
Immediately, in her usual quick-witted way, she said, "Yeah, but what I really need is the butt of a writer!"
You know exactly what she's talking about, right?
You go to a conference or workshop and come back so fired up to do all the things. You may even do them for a week ... and then the glow wears off and pretty soon you're having guilt attacks because you haven't written a word in thirty days.
You set up a rhythm for yourself and it's working so well -- and then one of your kids gets sick or you get sick or your boss gets sick and suddenly you can't find that piece of paper where you wrote down your new routine.
It doesn't even have to be as big a deal as that. You don't need a tornado hitting your town or your finger developing debilitating arthritis or your best friend losing her house in a storm to throw you off. Your writing routine can be swept aside by really positive things. A whole new slew of fresh ideas. The sudden urge to start a club for girls. The undeniable nudge to fire up a work-out program for yourself. That's all great stuff. But it isn't writing.
Basically, we writers simply have to sit down and, well, WRITE. Was it Elizabeth George who said the best writers are the ones who have put in the most time on their -- okay, so she didn't say derrieres, but I'm going to! Step one, fanny in the chair. Step two, stay there long enough to get into the zone, and after that, you don't WANT to get up. (Unless one of your dogs stares at you and you realize she hasn't been outside in about six hours and if you don't take care of that you will have Lake Erie by the front door. Ask me how I know that).
I don't want to preach at you and tell you how to develop the D word (Discipline, okay?) We all have our own ways of doing that. The point is to HAVE a way, so that when the temptation to chuck it and do a Call the Midwife marathon on NetFlix (my chief means of escape) or you realize life has pushed you off the writing wagon -- you can pick yourself up, dust off those bun buns off and get them back into the seat in front of your keyboard.
I will give you some, let's call them, as Captain Jack Sparrow says, "guidelines" that you may be able to use to create your own Writer's Butt.
- Don't wait to be inspired before you write. My experience has taught me that (a) if you do that you won't get a dang thing done and (b) the inspiration comes AS you sit yourself down and start doing the thing.
- Be sure that whatever writing rhythm you set up for yourself is reasonable and doable. If you're not a morning person, don't tell yourself you're going to get up at 5:00 a.m. five days a week to work on your novel. You'll hate it. If 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. is your I-abhor-this-time-of-day hour (we all have one), forget thinking you're going to sit down and be creative then. You aren't.
- Plan, at least mentally, what you're going to write before you approach your set-aside time. Compose that next paragraph in your head. Plan the scene in your mind. Take a walk -- let the chapter take shape in your brain -- and THEN start typing. If you sit down with no plan, you'll spend the whole time figuring out how to get started. No wonder you don't want to write!
- Do NOT be shy about letting other people know THIS IS YOUR WRITING TIME! There is nothing selfish, self-indulgent or irresponsible about it. If you feel called to write -- as I know all of you do -- you aren't meeting your commitment to God if you don't do it. Bottom line.
Most of the time when we procrastinate, it's because we're afraid to fail. But the only way you CAN fail is not to start at all. Will you write rubbish now and then? Of course you will. Who among us does not? But if that rubbish isn't down there, you can't fix it -- you can't let it show you what you REALLY want to put into words. Fear not, ladies. There is no fear in creating -- just as there is no crying in baseball.
I would LOVE to hear how we all stay on task, or get those cute little behinds back into the chair. What are your tricks? What works for you? Who knows, it might give someone else an idea -- whether it's to reward yourself with Lily's chocolate every 1,000 words (Lily's is sweetened with Stevia, which eliminates all guilt, just in case you happen to feel any) or to first imagine yourself winning the Nobel Prize for literature or to actually get up at 5:00 a.m. and write for an hour five days a week so you know it's done before the rest of the day begins. Tell us how you do it.
Most of all, you have our encouragement and support. This is not an easy gig, and anyone who says it clearly hasn't written a book -- a short story - an article -- a letter to their mom. It's complex and demanding. No wonder we need all the help we can get to develop the Butt of a Writer.
Nancy Rue P.S. Tomorrow I'm having an itty bitty surgery in an itty bitty joint on my right index finger. I just read the post-op instructions that say not to do anything with that finger for two weeks. How is that possible? I'll post again when I figure out how to type only with my left hand! Yikes!