Monday, April 15, 2013

Just do it...with a little help from your friends

So now that I've said just do it, in the sense that no one can write your novel or story for you, or ever tell you precisely how to realize your dream, are there any tools and approaches we might explore to help us on that solitary trek?  As a late-comer to writing, I've made a few discoveries along the way and love to share them with writers at the early stages of their own art and craft.  Of course, we're all unique, so no single idea is a panacea.  For me, though, a sea change came when I attended my first week-long writing event, The Antioch Wrters' Conference in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

As a fledgling writer, I had initially thrilled myself just by completing parseable sentences and paragraphs, and I basked in the glow of precious awards like "Gosh, this is good.  No, no, really, I mean it" from wife and daughters and the occasional friend.  More importantly, I viewed writing as a special form of magic and I approached it as if it were a gift from the fickle muses, meaning I found it convenient to interpret it a sin to attempt the miracle of creation when not directly inspired by a breathy whisper from the lips of Clio or Erato.  Of course, it also gave me a convenient excuse to hardly ever write.  After all, it can be tough to hear those whispers amidst one's noisier pursuits.  So, for two years I boasted the shiny badge of writer and talked about my project and researched and took notes and read books on writing and did very little of the actual Herculean task itself.

Then, finally, a genuine writer looked at my opening chapter and suggested I might try one of the summer writers' conferences to help me hone my craft and actually complete a novel.  I ended up spending an enchanted week in the aging hippie enclave of Yellow Springs and I reveled in the company of real, published authors.  A pair of truths I discovered that week: First, we all can only type a single word at a time; and second, most serious writers treat their writing as a job!  Yes, like work!  No lounging around, eating bonbons, waiting for Calliope to drop le mot juste into your yearning ear.  Work.  As in, conscious, planned, effort.  As in, very often, the drudgery of pushing yourself to draw up something--anything, almost--to put ink on paper (okay, figuratively for most of us) and keep the process going.  As in, for most writers, maintaining, god forbid, a routine of time and place and method, maybe even with goals!  Work!

Know what?  It--sorry--works!  More to follow . . .


  1. That first moment that someone looks at your work and tells you to go talk to other writers is priceless. It's so amazing.
    And then, yes, you find out how much work it is. How much awesome, rewarding, exciting work it is.

  2. Thanks, Dave. Your lecture sent me back to the writing chair, post-dinner, for another hour of work. That never happens!