For Writers, IMHO

Stating the obvious.

When I first decided I was going to make a for-real attempt at writing for a living, I started reading all the advice to new writers I could get my hands on. You know what the underlying thread is in nearly all of them – from award-winning, NYT Best-Selling icons to newbies?

Every single person says the best thing you can do if you want to be a writer is to write every day.

I love love love though that nobody tries to hide the secret sauce. There’s no silver bullet method to getting published. If you talk to a dozen authors, you’ll get a dozen unique stories about their path from idea to shelf, whether they’ve self-pubbed or been picked up by one of the big houses. But you can’t get published if you don’t write.

The killer, of course, is that this is much harder than it sounds.

Life gets in the way. Work. Spouse. Kids. Pets. Plumbing. Illnesses. Miss one day and it snowballs into months in a blink of an eye.

So here’s my advice, as a pre-published author who also happens to freelance copywrite and proofread for a living. If you’ve missed a day (or year), put it behind you. Don’t beat yourself up. Start fresh. Start now. Make an appointment with yourself to write for however long you can, however often you can. And keep that appointment.

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Progress, not perfection

Cocoa. Marshmallows. Choco-whip.
Cocoa. Marshmallows. Choco-whip.

Early in our marriage, my sweet hubs pointed out what I like to think of as humanity, but he calls a “charming quirk.” We’d eaten out, which we didn’t do often in those days (or these), and he noticed that as I talked, I cut my food into bite sized pieces, then selected a few pieces to eat. I did it without thinking about it. He said it reminded him of the “When Harry Met Sally” movie – Sally always had to create the perfect bite.

There’s nothing wrong with knowing what you like and the way you like it. But writing, for me anyway, doesn’t take well to that kind of process. When I write, sometimes I get stuck in that “perfect bite” mode. I self-edit to the point of paralysis.  Some days I spend more time thinking of the word choice and possible implications of said choice than I do just letting the ideas pile onto the page.  I don’t know why it happens, and it’s agonizing.

This week has been one of those weeks where I’ve been beating myself up over my staggering lack of perfection. And what do you know, the ol’ creativity faucet has clogged.  Nothing but ick. Quelle surprise. Today I finally FINALLY eked out a few dribbling words on a new MS and it. felt. amazing. The words flowed just enough to remind me that they’re still in there, if only I’d dial down the self-criticism long enough to let them out.

So tomorrow I’ll sit down to write again and I will tell myself that it’s okay. That the page I’m staring at is a welcoming page, an inclusive place where all syllables, consonants and vowels are treated kindly as we build this little world together. Yes, later we will slice everything into pieces and select a few choice morsels to save. But today what’s more important is to keep moving, imagining, slinging ideas out and sprinkling them with whatever comes to mind.