Just Write It.
As I type these words, my six-year-old daughter, home sick with a fever, is calling out to me. All I can make out is, “. . . cat throwing up aaaaall his breakfast!” I suppose I should go check it out, but first, I’ve got to finish this lead.
When people learn that I write from home, they often tell me, “You must be so disciplined!” I also hear, “I have this story idea, but I just can’t find the time to get it down on paper.”
Got something you want to write? Just write it. I always thought Nike should make shoes and t-shirts for writers: Just write it!
Discipline is mainly well-formed habits. I’ve had my home business for thirteen years now, but I wasn’t always this disciplined. I believe I spent the first three months writing one query. One. It landed me a magazine piece in Reader’s Digest, and then another, but perhaps if I’d been more disciplined, I could have sold them three articles.
By month four, I’d learned that thinking about writing, reading about writing, planning about writing, and making pie charts about writing wasted a lot of time when I could actually be—wait for it—writing!
I then started forming three good habits, and I haven’t looked back. Those habits are a large part of how I’ve managed to produce a national magazine column for over a decade, plus write two non-fiction books, two children’s books, and three poetry collections. The first habit: set aside time to write every day. The Pulitzer-prize winning writer Hemingway got up every morning at the crack of dawn, wrote until noon, and then went fishing.
I start writing at 8:00 a.m. and finish around noon, too. I skip the fishing part, though, and instead choose to exercise, phone a friend, run errands, or attend to the business end of my business—querying and marketing. I even spend time on Facebook and Twitter, but it’s always scheduled. Social networking is now a necessary part of every author’s day, but don’t let it jeopardize your daily writing time.
My second habit still falls under the ‘Just Write It’ category, because it’s who I write for first and foremost when writing fiction: Me. I write what I feel deep in my heart, and never, ever question who will read it.
Over-thinking murders inspiration, every time. So, especially when writing poetry, I don’t write for the readers. I write because I need to satisfy a writing thirst that must be quenched at that moment in time. My best poems begin like a thirst, and come pouring out like rain. If I do my job right, the readers will dance with me in the puddles.
My third habit applies to the pouring out part. I try not to edit what I’ve written—at least not as the pen first hits the paper. If I’ve set aside four hours to write every morning, you’d better believe I’m going to want to edit some of the nonsense that appears in my notebook, but I let myself write several lines at a time, and keep the scratching-out/ripping up (yes, of course I rip up pages!) to a minimum.
Some mornings, I’ll write three full pages of uncensored thoughts, just to get my pen flowing. My best poems are most often the ones where I didn’t over think or edit while writing. I just wrote it, and returned a day later to re-evaluate.
Just write it. Write for yourself. Write freely, don’t over-think it, and don’t edit while writing. If you manage to do all that every day, go fishing. You deserve it.