Who knew, right?
I’ve made little secret of the fact that in the past I haven’t written as much as I would like. More specifically, I haven’t written enough to get me where I want to be in my career. I usually write only for profit (i.e. when someone is paying me to do it for them) and if I do write for me (“on spec”) I tend to abandon the projects because of my overactive editor brain, or because paying work has to take precedence. There was always an excuse.
When novelist Lawrence Block joined twitter he was really active, posting advice and affirmations, and if I wasn’t a fan of his work and reputation, it would have made me one based on that alone. I liked what he was saying and ended up subscribing to his newsletter (where he often gives away free books and short stories for Kindle, so hop on that) and he ended up having a sale on an mp3 download of his “Affirmations for Writers” audio. I figured it couldn’t hurt and it was a few dollars, so I gave it a shot.
While I was placing my order, I noticed a sale for another book by another author. In fact, it’s the only book on Block’s store that isn’t written by him (under his name or his pseudonyms). That book? “Break Writer’s Block Now!” by Jerrold Mundis. LB said the reason he carries it is because it was the only book of its kind that he knew of that actually worked. It got writers (and aspiring writers who couldn’t find the time or overcome the mental hurdles) writing. As with the audio, I figured it couldn’t hurt.
Let me start by saying that I don’t believe in Writer’s Block (no relation to Mr. Block). It’s a fake thing people say because they get insecure. Running out of ideas or not knowing where to go next are symptoms of either story problems or problems of approach. Nothing is actually blocked. So why this book?
Because block is just a symptom. This book is about acknowledging all of the myriad reasons you can’t write… and then, literally, throwing them in the trash and getting to business. And its promise is that you can do that in one afternoon and start a habit you can maintain for life, regardless of how busy your life or the demands on your time.
I bought this book in August 2011. I had to look it up, I didn’t know how long it had been. I read the intro, where Mundis tells you you can read it in chunks, but he recommends sitting down for an afternoon and working through the whole thing in an environment free of distractions. I didn’t take the time to do that until last Monday (5/20). And while I was busy not reading this book — and not writing — my career as a writer was busy not moving forward. Enough was enough and I finally sat down and read the book, did the exercises, and created a schedule for myself.
I now have a writing schedule (every weekday morning) that I stick to. I have written every day save for the holiday this week (which I considered a weekend day, where I only write if I want to) since setting up my schedule and don’t imagine missing any time soon. I’ve gotten back to the pilot I was working on in late December and I don’t think I touched after about 1/10. I had stalled out, but my new schedule has me working on it again. I started from scratch because the story felt a little alien to me so I haven’t quite reached where I was, but I know something different about the process of writing now.
Writing is easy and fun. It really is. I used to treat it solely like a job. Sure, I would jot down ideas when they came to me, but that’s brainstorming, not writing. That was most of the fun I got from writing. Now I get joy from my fingers on the keys and words on the screen. And it’s easy.
The biggest takeaway from the book I got is this:
Writing is the simple act of words on paper.
Now read that again. It’s simple, something that we all innately know, but it gets lost in the monolithic idea of Writing and the mysticism of “where do ideas come from?” But while there’s a great deal of mystery to Writing and how your brain helps you craft stories out of thin air, that’s really just there for critics and theorists.
Writing is the simple act of words on paper.
My pilot may not be any good. (I’m pretty sure it’s not, but that’s what revised drafts are for.) I’m not worrying about that. The editor is off and I’m not chasing that dragon anymore. I’m chasing the habit, and the enjoyment, of writing.
A friend of mine and fellow writer has been a longtime supporter of me and nurturer of my talent. Usually he asks me if I’m working on anything, reminds me to write, and we part with, “Yeah, yeah, I know. I need to write more. I will, I will. Just as soon as [insert semi-sarcastic excuse].” When I talked to him yesterday and he asked me about career stuff, I didn’t have to deflect or have the same conversation. I could tell him, plain and simple, things were going well because I was writing. It was a nice change of pace.
Writing is fun. You should try it some time.