“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.”
“Very well. A writer’s life is lonely.”
“Would you want it any other way?”
“Of course not.”
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.
“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.”
- If You Want to Be a Writer, Write!
- Writing Is an Exercise in Humility
- The Perpetual Tide and Ebb of the Creative Process
- All Creation Is an Act of Faith
- Keep Going: Cardio for Zombie Hunters and Writers
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