… you don’t have to think you’ve got it all right and perfect to be proud of what you’ve done. – Robin Mckinley
I follow several author blogs. One of these authors posted an update on the story she’s been working on for several years. Which was, basically, a report of no progress. She was stalled. She hadn’t written anything in months. But she made a list of things to do. Her list went something like this:
- Chat with a friend about her plot
- Write an outline of her story
- Read books about the craft of writing
I am not criticizing this list. These are all good things to do.
At the end of the day, after doing all of those things, she still will not have added a single word to her manuscript. Outlines and craft books and chats with friends can be useful if you’re trying to motivate yourself to write, but they can also be a distraction from the fact that you are not actually doing any writing.
What really tipped me over the edge into irritation and provoked this whole rant was the part where she discussed finding a regular time to write. She just couldn’t find a time that worked for her, with all the other things she had to do in her life. Several writers she knew got up early and wrote before the day started, but she dismissed this notion because “she was not really a morning person.”
I am absolutely, positively, and in all ways not a morning person. I get up at 5 a.m. to write, but I do not do it because I like getting up at that hour. I do it because it’s the best time for me to get the words onto the page. First thing in the morning, my mind is a blank slate. By the end of the day, my brain is filled up with all the little worries and irritations and To Do lists of the day, and it’s much harder to clear my thoughts and get into the story I’m writing.
I think the brain can become accustomed to the habit of writing at any time of day, so long as you are consistent. It would be uphill work for me to write in the evening, but I could do it. But I would not accomplish any writing by outlining or chatting or reading something someone else wrote.
My point is that if you are not writing, and you want to write, you’ve got to face the blank page (or screen) and just start putting words down. Bad words. Inadequate words. Words that you’re going to rip up (or press delete, but that’s much less satisfying). It doesn’t matter. Write the best words you know at that point in time. Show them to someone whose opinion you trust. Rewrite the words. Keep doing this and you will end up with a finished manuscript in your hands. Know in your heart that when you turn this manuscript over to an editor or agent or beta reader, you’re probably going to have to rewrite whole sections of it.