Category: Writing

How to Use a Writing Journal

Notebook on a table used as a writing journal with a fireplace in the background
Photo by Rafael Leão on Unsplash

Writing is, indubitably, hard. No one can teach you, really. There are books and rules and what have you, and they can help to a certain extent. However, you have to do the work, day after day, and figure out what works for you eventually. One of the things that has helped me a lot is a writing journal.

What is a writing journal, you wonder. Nothing fancy, I assure you. Mine is simply an unassuming black notebook that I keep on my desk while writing. Every time I get an idea, get an insight, notice a problem that I need to address, or realize I need a synonym, I write it all down in my journal.

Why bother? After all, if you have an idea or learned something, it’ll be right there, in your head, where it came from. And it may be quicker to look up a synonym online, for instance.

Ha! You wish. After spending half my morning looking up better ways of saying anxious and debating the various merits of distressed, nervous, and afraid, I had a light bulb moment. This was a waste of my time. I could always do that later, while editing. Just let the writing flow, while it lasts.

As for learnings, I found that the process of writing it all down and reviewing it later made for better retention. I would simply remember it better and occasionally apply it, too. I am human, after all, and not very good at taking my own advice.

I usually review the previous day’s notes in the morning, before starting a new writing session, and would occasionally flip through pages every now and then.

Notebook on a table
Photo by Dim Hou on Unsplash

These are some of the things I wrote down in my writing journal. Not world-shattering, certainly, but that made so much difference to my process. Maybe my writing has improved, or maybe not, but one thing is certain: it’s much faster.

  • End your writing session when you know exactly where you’re going. It’s going to be easier to pick up the thread the next morning. Since you know what you wanted to say, you get a quick and easy start, and then you can just go on from there, gathering steam as you go.
  • Use a printed outline of the book and the chapter you’re working on to remind you of the book and chapter structure so you always know where you are and what the focus should be. Use it as a checklist when editing.
  • Don’t break for small things, e.g., “quickly checking” something or throwing a new load of laundry in the washing machine. They derail your focus and thread of thinking. Plan your known interruptions to coincide with a natural break in your writing flow. My washing machine has a 1 ½ hour cycle, so I attend to the laundry when I’m ready for a break. 
  • Don’t compare your first draft with the finished work of established writers. All first drafts are shitty, as Anne Lamott reminded us in “Bird by Bird“. You don’t see their first draft, only the long-polished final version. 
  • Use a Slush file for text snippets that don’t fit in your WIP but are worth saving. 
  • You run out of steam after a while; learn to notice when you’re spent. There’s no point in struggling more when you’ve reached that point. Just call it a day and be satisfied with that day’s work. 
  •  Don’t write and edit, or you’ll never finish. When you write, you write. Don’t pause. Make a note, and highlight what needs to be checked or changed to know where to go and what to do later. Later is the important word. Highlight words you’ve repeated on the same page in a certain color to go back later and look up synonyms or re-write the sentence when you edit (later). Same for words that don’t feel 100%. Look for the perfect word later.

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We Must Not Be Defeated

Statue of St. Francis of Assisi by Frances Rich at Millesgården

There is, I hope, a thesis in my work: we may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated. That sounds goody-two-shoes, I know, but I believe that a diamond is the result of extreme pressure and time. Less time is crystal. Less than that is coal. Less than that is fossilized leaves. Less than that it’s just plain dirt. In all my work, in the movies I write, the lyrics, the poetry, the prose, the essays, I am saying that we may encounter many defeats—maybe it’s imperative that we encounter the defeats—but we are much stronger than we appear to be and maybe much better than we allow ourselves to be.

Maya Angelou (1928–2014), was an American poet, storyteller, and autobiographer.

To read more quotes, click here.

How To Kill Your Darlings

Close up of a red squirrel
A squirrel photo I couldn’t delete.

I take hundreds, if not thousands, of photos but keep only a handful. The selection is an exercise of self-restraint. Photos of flowers or other static subjects are easier to delete but wildlife? It’s not easy. You cannot predict whether the animals or birds would come, and if they come, what they’d do. Getting good quality and interesting photos of wildlife is challenging. So, when I finally get some images, I find it hard to delete them. (Besides, squirrels are so cute that it’s almost impossible to delete any photos!).

But this is nothing compared to deleting something I have written.

Kill your darlings.” Of course, I’ve read about it* and wholly agreed with it, especially in other writers’ works. But, oh, so hard to do in one’s own text! I loved a short story I had waved at the beginning of the chapter I was working on, and it broke my heart to delete it. But it had to be done; it was good, but it had no place in that chapter. But there’s a Band-Aid for your bruised little scribbler’s soul: create a Slush File.

A Slush File?

What’s a slush file, you ask. This is where the killed darlings go, or all seducing ideas unrelated to your current work. Don’t have the heart to delete a clever paragraph? Remove it from the text and save it in a separate document. See, you can still eat your cake and have it! Your text will thank you, and you’d still have your fabulous fragment. You may even use it another day; have a glance at your slush file a few chapters later, and you may save yourself some typing. Who knows?

Or: got a great idea for a different project? Write it down quickly and return to the project you were working on. Once you’ve finished it, visit the slush file, and pick a new project. The idea is not to go chasing new shiny things but to stay focused on whatever you were working on at the time. Get rid of that thought quickly, good as it was, and go back to work.

Close up of a red squirrel eating
Look at that mischievous look! I couldn’t delete the photo, could I?

Keep It Simple

My slush file is very straightforward: a folder called Slush (duh!) in the Scrivener document I’m currently working on, and a simple bullet point list in Apple’s Notes app for ideas and new projects, points grouped by project. Something like this:

  • End of the world story, a prepper & his cousin.
    • “Prepper John” has a so-called shack middle of nowhere, in fact, a well-stored bunker. Remote island?
    • Cousin (she), a journalist, meets him at the shack for an interview on prepping.
    • Zombies.

I keep the Notes app easily accessible on my phone’s home screen. I don’t need to search for it or open folders and files. As soon as I get one of those tempting ideas, I just write it down quickly in Notes and resume whatever I was doing at the time. 

Once I’m done with the project, I transfer the remaining Slush text fragments to a Word document called Slush. Obviously.

* About killing your darlings. The saying has been attributed to many authors, from Oscar Wilde, Eudora Welty, and William Faulkner to G.K. Chesterton, Chekhov, and Stephen King. 

King leads this attribution game nowadays, very likely due to this sentence from his excellent book On Writing: “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.

Most scholars point to British writer Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch.“If you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.’”, he wrote in his book On the Art of Writing.

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Nobody Cares If You Don’t Write

A vintage typewriter on a wooden table
Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

I weight train twice a week, Tuesday afternoons and Friday mornings. As I was lacing my shoes this morning, about to leave the gym, an old lady on her way in remarked, “Are you done already?” in a tone of surprise. It was 8:15 am. The gym opens at 7:30 am, and I was there on the dot. “All done! I’m here as soon as the gym opens and get it over with.”, I replied cheerfully. Not because I have this iron willpower or am the poster girl of self-discipline. In fact, I’m the exact opposite. But I’ve learned the hard way that I lose as soon as I start debating whether to train or not. So you see, one way of manifesting my creativity is coming up with better and better excuses for why I couldn’t train that day.

To cut a long story short, I found that the best way to deal with my penchant for making up excuses was to just do it. Just do it. Schedule the time in my calendar, have the gym clothes and the bag ready by the door, then be out of the house in minutes once the alarm clock rings. Not questioning the form of the day, not debating pros and cons, not making up an excuse. Just do it.

The crazy thing is that I love it once I’m at the gym! 45 minutes fly by, and I head home, feeling relaxed and not a little virtuous. It’s just the beginning that is hard, getting over the initial resistance.

Very similar to writing, I mused as I was heading home after another training session, gone from reluctance to exhilaration in minutes. I love having written. But starting to write? Pure hell.

A vintage typewriter, a notebook, a clock on a wooden desk
Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash

Be Your Own Boss

You have to be your own slave master and be willing to hold the whip yourself if you want to write. Nobody is going to do that for you. Unlike a job where you have a manager to push you, writing demands to be your own boss. Nobody will set your deadlines and goals, monitor your progress, or demand status reports. You’re on your own.

If your dream is to write and you don’t write, nothing happens. Apart from the soul-wrenching fact you haven’t written, that is. And guess what? If you don’t hold yourself accountable and push yourself, if you don’t force yourself to stick to your routines and do the work, if you don’t write, in other words – nobody will care. NOBODY WILL CARE. It’s your dream, not other people’s. At best, they might feel sorry for you if you failed to produce the science-fiction novel of your dreams that you talked so much about. But that’s it, a few fleeting seconds and “I’m sorry it didn’t work, mate!”. Then they move on with their lives, leaving you with your unfinished novel and the bitter taste of failure in your mouth.

How do you move the needle? How do you push through that initial resistance, that apparently insurmountable mountain blocking your path? How do you start writing even when you don’t want to?

Writing with a fountain pen
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The Power of Self-Discipline

Self-discipline is what takes you from dreaming to fulfilling your dream. Self-discipline is doing what you must do to reach your goals, even when you don’t want to. Especially when you don’t want to do it. Have you noticed how tempting house cleaning, for instance, is when you have to do something you don’t want to do? Arranging your drawers is suddenly a delight, not a chore. Sorting your books by color seems the best use of your time. Your mind, the traitor, gets creative and comes up with lots of other things you could do instead of writing.

And this is your chance when those treacherous ideas start to form. Nip them in the bud immediately. Don’t let that thought be fully formed or that idea take root in your mind because you’ve lost if they do. Push back directly. No is a powerful word; use it!

“No, I can’t wash the windows now; it’s my writing time.”
” No, I can’t arrange my socks now; it’s my writing time.”
“No! No distractions! It’s my writing time.”

Don’t negotiate or allow any discussions. Instead, decide that you’ll follow your plan for that day and do what you had planned to do, which was to write. Just do it. As simple as that. I didn’t say it was easy.

Coffee mug and notebook on a low table in front of a fireplace
Photo by Rafael Leão on Unsplash

Make It Easier to Get Started

Can you make it easier?

Well, as a matter of fact, I can.

I prepare for writing as I prepare for my training, making it quick and easy to get started. This means setting the alarm in the evening, laying out the breakfast things in the kitchen, and making my workspace ready for a new writing session at the end of a writing session.

Workspace readiness is different for different people, as it should be. For my part, it involves tidying up my desk, removing coffee cups and cat hairs (if you have pets, you know what I mean), putting back papers and pens in their holders, and refilling the water bottle.

(Yes, the water won’t be super fresh the next morning, but you have no idea how treacherous filling a bottle can be! This is how it goes: I’ll walk to my desk, fully intending to write, then realize that I need water. I go to the kitchen and start filling the bottle, gazing through the window all the while. Then a deer runs past, or a squirrel jumps on the low stone wall or the sparrow hawk flies by. My curiosity picked, I leave the bottle on the counter and stand by the window to see what would happen next. That doe is usually not alone; her two fawns must be following shortly. That red squirrel is so cute; I can watch her shenanigans all day. Would the sparrow hawk just fly by or go for one of the small birds in the bushes? And so it goes, the monkey mind jumping from one thought to another. Half an hour has gone by before I’m back at my desk. Hence, I fill the bottle the night before. One source of distraction eliminated.)

When I sit at my desk in the morning, it’s a pleasure to see a well-organized workplace with everything I need in its place (including the water bottle). It’s easy then just to sit down and start working.

Getting started is still daunting, but I’ve found that stopping for the day when things go well works wonders. This way, I can start right away next time as I know exactly what to do. I don’t lose any time staring into space, paralyzed by the blank page. The start is already there, and the only thing I need to do is continue where I left it the day before. And once I’ve started, it’s easy to keep going.

A slice of cake
Photo by Chinh Le Duc on Unsplash

And Maybe a Carrot?

I also like to use carrots, small rewards I give myself if I follow the plan. A small piece of chocolate, watching squirrels, going for a walk, creating a composite squirrel photo, or maybe buying a new book on a tough day. (You have no idea how many bad days I have!). Anything pleasurable, anything that I can look forward to, a carrot dangling in front of me to take me through the challenging moments, a motivator helping me stay focused when I’m struggling.

Besides, there’s a bonus: positive reinforcement. Every time I reward myself for having written, I teach that monkey brain that writing is a pleasurable thing, something I enjoy. Writing is joy, not anxiety. That will make associating writing with positive feelings rather than apprehension easier. In time, it becomes a habit. Wake up, have breakfast, sit down, and write. Repeat. And repeat. And repeat some more. Don’t overthink it; just do it. Wonderful things will happen to those who wait write every day, inspired or not.

Vintage fountain pen on a piece of written paper
Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash


Self-discipline is essential when it comes to writing. It is the ability to stay focused and committed to your goals, even when it’s hard. Remember the three things: make it easy to get started, say no and just do it, and reward yourself along the way.

You can’t change the past but you can still shape your future. So become your own boss and coach. Make choices today that will make your future better. If you sit down and write every day, even for a few minutes, in time, you’ll have a significant amount of writing done. A page a day means 365 pages at the end of the year and a lot of practice learning the craft.

In the long term, the reward of self-discipline is fulfillment. The opposite is regret. Nobody but you will care if your dream quietly dies on the way.

The pain of self-discipline will never be as great as the pain of regret.

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Why Do I Write?

Why do I write? How could I not? I write so I know that I exist. Brief as my moment in this world may be, it’s mine and mine alone; all mine to cherish and to honor. All mine to examine, make sense of, and preserve in the amber drop of memory.

Water seller in Marrakesh, Morocco
Water Seller, Jeema el Fna, Marrakech (Morocco)

I write to remember the honey light in Marrakech on a late afternoon in March, the blue of the sky vibrating with the muezzin calls and the racket of the sparrows playing in the palm trees in the Majorelle Garden. The gorgeous backdrop of the Atlas Mountains and the aroma of the spices in the souk. The rich hot black coffee in the tiny café on a side street off Jemâa el-Fna Square. The toothless smile of the old water seller under the colorful hat embellished with bright orange fringes. I remember he had a bushy mustache and an air of resigned patience on his heavily lined face as tourists snapped their photos. At least he’s getting paid, I thought.

I write to remember Delhi and the heavy scent of burning incense that hit me while the plane was landing, the beaming faces greeting me in the terminal, friends I hadn’t met yet. Delirious and unfamiliar Delhi, my senses assaulted by its cacophony of novel sounds, colors, and smells; the reddish-brown cow nibbling on a sapling at the side of the road, another moving placidly in the chaotic traffic. Horn, please! said the stickers on the bumper, explaining part of the racket. The delicious food at a vegetarian restaurant I found wandering by myself in the glowing twilight. 

Indian women wearing colorful saris
Image by Suffix on Pixabay

And everywhere you looked, people. People walking in line along the dusty roads, carrying bundles of vegetables or a collection of empty plastic water bottles; bales of cotton in all the rainbow’s colors; armloads of marigolds, their leaves strikingly green against the deep orange of the petals. People riding bicycles or rickshaws, carrying saddlebags, floor sacks, suitcases, packets tied with brown hemp strings, and age-worn backpacks. People drinking tea on the side of the road, gossiping and watching the traffic. Grinning people dressed in flowing white robes. Dark-eyed women with red dots on their foreheads and wide-eyed toddlers clutching tightly at their bright orange, green or yellow saris.

A gray fox statue s at the Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto, Japan.
A fox statue at the Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto, Japan

I write to remember Kyoto’s old streets, lined with tiny wooden houses clinging to the low hills, miniature flowerpots and plastic water bottles aligned like soldiers at the gates; the gray stone foxes at the Fushimi Inari shrine, messengers of Inari, the Shinto god of rice, red neckerchiefs fluttering in the cool wind around their necks; the fiercely red-orange of the torii gates matching the foxes’ kerchiefs.

Two kangaroos on a field, Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island, South Australia

I write to remember the dusty red tracks on Kangaroo Island, lined with giant eucalyptus trees; the incongruous rough calls of the fluffy koalas at dusk, mixed with the hubbub of the parakeets and galahs; the boxing kangaroos at sunset, their darkening silhouettes visible against the fiery sky; and the soft leathery sounds made by the flying foxes in the dark.

But faraway places aren’t the only stops of my memory train. There’s a democracy in my head; everybody can climb on board. Five-star resorts and exotic islands; dusty tracks and fly-ridden donkeys; water-sellers and university professors; squirrels and the Queen of England; the first time I rode a bicycle; the summer I injured my knee; the downpour in the mountains that almost washed our tent away; the vanilla and coffee ice-cream I so enjoyed on summer afternoons; the surgery I had in 2014. It’s all there in the attic in a jumble that only writing can bring order to.

A red squirrel in the snow holding a hazelnut in its mouth
Red squirrel

I write to freeze in time the moment I saw my name on the list of people admitted to the university, standing on my toes in a crowded room.

I write because otherwise, nobody else will know about Fluffy, the one-eyed red squirrel raiding the bird feeders in my backyard, her remaining huge alien eye glittering with mischief. 

I write because the world has a right to know that Terry, the male squirrel with the dark fluffy coat, does not like peanuts. He prefers sunflower seeds.

This is why I write. How could I not?

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Faith and the Art of Writing

Seashells heart

I do not know whether I shall make progress; but I should prefer to lack success rather than to lack faith. Once again, Seneca hits the nail on its head. My writing mornings have become more and more torture sessions after the almost euphoric beginning. I write and write, one sentence after another, and I write almost anything, no matter how bad or irrelevant to the topic, just to record something in the log and say, See, I’ve written that much today. But do I believe in what I’m writing? Not anymore. I’m losing faith, and that’s about the worst. In survival situations, mental strength is the difference between who dies and who lives; in writing, between who finishes a book and who doesn’t.

I finish the daily quota and go for a walk, unsatisfied by the day’s production. A jumble of words, a bright spark here and there … how can all this become a book? How could I think I could write? But isn’t every author saying that you have to write, no matter how bad, in order to learn how to write? You’ll suck at first, they say, and you’ll continue sucking for a while; you have to make your peace with that. But with every word scribbled down in anguish, with every sentence excavated from the depths of your creative mine, with every doubt encountered but dismissed on the way – you learn. 

That is, you learn if you have faith and keep at it long enough to notice your progress. That’s the difference between those who finish a book and those who don’t. Learning how to write means learning how to live with inadequacy and doubt and how to keep going despite your mind screaming in protest. “What’s the use?” that traitor would say, “You call that writing? You’re lucky your life doesn’t depend on it.” You hear it scream, yet you continue, you endure it and write another sentence, and another one, and another one.

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it”; Picasso’s words comfort me. Have faith and keep going. Never stop working; never lose faith. You’ll make it.

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How to Write Anything

An abstract photo of the sea
Fire in the Sea © Mihaela Limberea 2021

“I don’t know what to write about.”

“Of course you do. You must know something.”

“I know nothing.”

OK. Let’s see.

I know my name and the name of the street I live on. And of this tiny island I call home.

I know the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. I’ve seen it. It’s real.

I know the blackbirds are early risers and catch the worms indeed.

I know a jay can scoop and carry away twenty peanuts in one go.

I know the sounds of the trees when the wind catches in their long arms.

“See, you do know something. What else do you know?”

How quickly rabbits and squirrels demolish my Halloween pumpkins. (Very).

What finches and blackbirds love to eat (hemp seeds and apples).

The funny way the squirrels or the woodpeckers chase each other around the old oak in my back yard.

The way the cat twitches her whiskers in her sleep, chasing squirrels and sparrows and growling softly.

The blare of the emergency broadcast testing on Mondays at 3 pm, always on schedule, always unexpected.

“That can’t be all. Surely there’s more.”

Resistance is futile.”

“Very funny.”

“Very well. A writer’s life is lonely.”

“Would you want it any other way?”

“Of course not.”

“Go on.”

Writing is a curse and a blessing.

It’s hard to start and even harder to stop.

All first drafts are atrocious. Awful. Lousy. Get used to it.

Words form slowly on the paper, and when they do, they don’t sound as good as they did in your head. So get used to this, too.

It’s most likely that your writing will be misunderstood, but that’s OK. Once you send something out into the world, it doesn’t belong to you anymore. So let it be and move on.

Other people’s work is always better, you think. Don’t. What others do is not your business. Your business is to write.

Know that there’s plentiful in the world to keep you from writing: airing the mattresses; checking if there’s milk in the fridge and potatoes in the pantry; looking up what a baby porcupine is called (a porcupette – you’re welcome!); and a myriad other needs that arise suddenly the moment you sit down to write.

Resist the urge to rush to the bedroom or the pantry. Instead, write down the porcupine question for later. If need be, tie yourself to the chair like a modern Odysseus, but keep your butt on the chair. This is called the BIC technique by the people in the know.

“What’s BIC?”

“Butt in the chair.”

“Oh, I see.”

Talent is good, but self-discipline is better. 

If you want to be a writer, write. Don’t talk about writing; write.

The self-appointed inner critic is a jerk; ditch him. 

Doubt is the writer’s constant companion, as is fear, perfectionism, and other delights you’ll discover on your own. It’s normal; you’re not alone.

Write, write, write. Then write some more. It’s the only way to stay sane; that, and some strenuous walking every day—bonus points for wandering in the woods. (Look up Japanese forest bathing after you’ve done your writing for the day).

Having high expectations of your work is the surest way of failing. So do your best and call it good enough.

Does a little perfectionist live inside you? Lock him up and throw away the key. Always striving to become better is good; never being satisfied with anything you do is bad. Nothing is ever purr-fect but a cat.

“What did I tell you? It’s hard to start but even harder to stop.”

“What can I say? You were right.”

“I always am. I have to go now, though; the mattresses need airing this very moment, I’m afraid.”

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Art is Warfare: A Status Report

Abstract photo in hues of blue by Mihaela Limberea.
Speed. © Mihaela Limberea 2021

Am I still writing a book? Sure I am. And I’ll tell you a secret: it’s good I’ve decided to document my journey publicly; it forces me to continue even when I’m tempted to give up, to be honest. I can’t think of a better way of staying the course as a writer. Only I wouldn’t give up, of course. Instead, I would write something different and much better, and finish the other book later. Oh, the lies we can tell ourselves!

Anyway, I managed to evade the siren calls of the new ideas and stay with The Book. (In an attempt to focus on the work, I’ve started now calling it The Book, using capital letters; any means are allowed to keep going!).

I’m now reading the last few research books and working on the lecture notes. I’m so fed up with reading books when my whole body screams to start writing. Hence, the lure and allure of the shiny new ideas. 

But I’m almost out of the tunnel, and I think I can see the light (unless it’s the train, as my old boss used to say). So I’ve allowed myself to start putting some meat on the preliminary outline. It almost feels like writing and keeps me happy, or, at least, calm, while I’m wrapping up the research.

So, not so much to report from the trenches, just soldiering on. I’m shooting for January 1st to start the actual writing. Art is warfare; Steven Pressfield was right.

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TMIS or The Too Many Ideas Syndrome

Remember when I was talking about my temptation to abandon my non-fiction book and start writing a different kind of book? Guess what? It happened again! No surprise there. It felt so good (it always does!), I almost started jotting down the first pages. Then reality set in, and I have, in fact, looked up that blog post just to remind myself that ideas are a dime a dozen

Most (non-writing) people think that writers need ideas for new books, but getting new ideas is seldom a problem. Quite the opposite, in fact. Enter TMIS, i.e., Too Many Ideas Syndrome. You have more ideas that you could possibly be working on. So beware: TMIS sounds like a luxury problem, but it can be paralyzing or make you jump from project to project, never finishing anything.

I have a pretty long list of things I’d like to write about, and – as you can see here – every now and then, I even convince myself that it may be worth abandoning whatever I was working on to pursue that shiny new thing.

However, this time I was ready and stayed the course. I followed my own advice (something I should do more often, I always think) and archived that shiny thing in the slush file. With a sigh and some heartache but I did it. If nothing else, I hope it’ll make me finish this book as soon as possible; then, I can start working on the new one. Win-win!

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Writing Is a Job

Writing is a job-text on the background of a notebook.

Writing a book sounds romantic, gazing over the roofs of Paris in a chilly attic room, slowly sipping hot black coffee. Fluttering curtains in the golden sunset. Sometimes it can even be that. 

But writing is, above all, a job. It’s work and routine. Toil and exhaustion. 

You have to go to work like everybody else and do the time on the chair. It means having a set time and place – be it a home office, a café, or the kitchen table. So you put on your working clothes, sit down at the set time, and start writing. No exceptions, no excuses, just doing. Every day.

Sometimes the words will flow, pouring of you so quickly you can hardly keep up typing, the pages filling effortlessly. You’re a gift to the world. Working is easy and pleasurable, and you can keep at it for hours.

Other times, you stare at the blank page and can hardly resist the urge to run. You write a few words, decide they’re lousy, and delete them. You start again. How could you ever think you could write?

Time drags on. Lunch cannot come soon enough. Or any interruption, really. You’re almost glad if something breaks. Then, suddenly, you’re happy calling the plumber or the electrician for an emergency repair. Or grateful if the delivery man seems to have time for a chat. Anything to avoid looking at that blank page, the blinking cursor a silent countdown to an inexorable deadline.

But you keep at it, how uncomfortable you may be. You’ve learned discipline. You’ve learned that if you sit there long enough, something will happen. An idea, even a kernel of an idea, will appear, seemingly out of thin air. An image that triggers long-gone memories. Scenes from a distant past or a shimmering future. And you’re in again. In the zone where fantastic things happen and writing is easy.

If you’re not able to write, write about not being able to write. For a writer, everything is writing material. Even not being able to write.

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