Got an email from a friend who confessed she was wondering why she was writing. What was the point of it all? Having been there and felt these feelings time and time again, I thought I’d share seven easy rules that saved me from abandoning the writing ship. Some of these are counter-intuitive but they will help you get back into the swing of things and sparkalate your writing:
1. Write your worst chapter. Really. Write really, really badly. Write with the belief that nobody can write worser [sic] than you. If you set yourself up to write badly, you free yourself. When you set yourself up by comparing your writing to that of a Pulitzer Prize winning author, you’ll lose big time. Just write poorly. That is freedom.
2. Throw away the first sentence. I have another friend who wrote an incredible first sentence for his memoir. This sentence is genius. I won’t share it because it’s so good and everybody, and not just me, would want to steal it. But then he was stuck. He has not written another word since because no other sentence seemed as powerful. Let go of that first sentence. Start your work at the second sentence. The first sentence of Moby Dick was really, “Don’t call me Chuck. Call me Ishmael.” (Nobody knows this.) (Just kidding.)
3. Ask yourself, Would you write even if nobody ever again will read your work? Then ask yourself, Why do you keep a journal? Because it’s the same principle. You’re writing just for the joy of it. No one will read my journal and I burn them periodically in a sacrificial fire. I write in them because writing helps me think clearly. The same goes with my other writing. I’m like a salmon. I swim upstream because I have to swim upstream. I write because I write.
4. Check your motives. Are you writing for riches? Fuhgeddaboutit. Are you writing for approval? Remember you have to love and approve of yourself. The act of writing can fill you up but the outcome is out of your control. It’s the process that counts.
5. Make your move. Force yourself to move your pen (or your fingertips) across the page or across the keyboard. Do not look back. Do not correct. Do not stop for spelling mistakes. Do not stop typing. Do not stop writing. Even if you get to the point where you write down, this is so stupid, write that down and keep going.
6. Find anything to write about. If you can’t think of what to write about, go on the street and tell stories about the people passing by. The guy with the green sweatshirt who is dreaming about his pet pig who died the year before. The woman in the supermarket who slept with the wife of her husband’s business associate. The elderly man—yes, the one crossing the street—just donated all his clothes and furniture to the Salvation Army because he plans to commit suicide this very night.
7. Have a writing session. You can do this online or in person. Make a commitment with a writing buddy to write for the next 30 minutes. Make it an hour. Then write. No talking. Write some more. Then share what you wrote. Or get someone to make you write. I was once with a friend and she forced me to sit in a chair and work.
Remember, we have to live through our worst chapters to get to our best chapters. The same holds true for writers. We have to write a lot of junk to get to the gold nuggets. We have to train for hundreds of miles to run that one race.
We have to keep digging, digging, digging up to the light.
This is the first in a series of articles on writing in preparation for the launch of my book, The Mom Who Took Off On Her Motorcycle. In the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing about the journey I took to write the book and how I eventually self-published it. I’ll share about marketing, self-printing, and the actual process of writing, so stay tuned. The posts will be sprinkled betwixt my other musings.
- On Prose Flow (Writing) (spurgeon.wordpress.com)
- Novel Writing Winter (NWW) 2013: on your marks, get set, go! (sarahpotterwrites.wordpress.com)