Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Writin' is Fightin'

If you're holding down a job, caring for family, keeping a home, you're already under a lot of pressure and your attention is pulled in a zillion directions. How are you going to fulfill your dream of writing that novel?

From the outside, writing a novel seems magical and mysterious. From the inside, it is often magical and mysterious. When the eagle soars and the words flow, it's a beautiful thing.

Then there are those other times...

I've heard Michael Connelly say that writin' is fightin'.  It is a fight--to find time to write, to focus, to turn out great work, to shut down the self doubts. I've heard hugely successful novelists talk about having the same concerns. It's comforting in a way to know that they also struggle. I do have a couple of novelist friends who have said certain of their books have "written themselves." Hmm... Not me. By the time I've put a book to bed, I feel as if I've survived the Bataan Death March.

Take heart. Writing a novel is not easy for most of us.

If you want to write that book, you must treat it like a job. No time to wait for the muse. Set aside a fixed time five days a week and write. Even if it's just an hour.  Even if you don't feel like it. Even if, even if... Just do it.

Just like any job, sometimes I have terrific days and other times, not so much. On those tough days, sometimes once I sit down and get started, the ideas and words come. Other days, the work just goes nowhere.

That's when I make a bargain with the muse.  I'll tell myself to work for two hours, then I can go do something else. Or maybe just one hour...  Walking away and doing something not related to writing, like going to the gym, digging in the yard, or cooking, often will pry loose ideas.

Then come back to the computer later that day or the next day ready for a new fight.


  1. I like the quote. And it's true, you have to carve out the time, no matter what. I wrote my first script on the computer at my day job, during lunch hours and afternoon breaks. I learned how to write in short spurts (a useful skill). You can't want until "someday" when you'll have time.

  2. Quite right, Petrea. It's amazing how much writing you can get done if you do it consistently.