I made a lot of mistakes in my quest to learn how to get words down onto the page. This was nothing to do with how to write in a sense of technical mastery, just simply bums on seats and words per day. On the principal that you should learn from other people’s mistakes because there’s not enough time to make them all yourself, I thought I’d share.
So, nothing is precious. And I do mean nothing.
The Time when you write is not precious. What I mean by this is the exact hour of the day is not precious. Yes, writing time is to be treasured because all writers have other commitments and demands on their time – the day job, your chores, relationships, family, children, in fact the rest of your life.
Writing doesn’t have to be reserved to a specific hour of a specific day. Do that and it’s too easy to get trap yourself into thinking that is the only time you can write. Other things will eat into it and you’ll risk thinking, ‘But that’s my writing time!’ and resent those things and those people. Be like a boxer – life is your opponent, roll with the punches, be nimble on your feet. Find another time, early or late, ten minutes here, half an hour there. The words will come.
The Place You Write is not precious. Lots of people dream of the writing den, a vaulted library, a cosy study, a cabin in the garden. What lovely dreams. You might think you must have solitude, the peace and quiet to summon the ‘writing vibe’. You don’t need any of that, thinking that way is just another self-imposed limit.
I’ve written in cafes (which was nice, I felt like a real writer), on the train , hotel bars, the garden step, the main concourse of the Royal Festival Hall. I’m not saying you should seek these places out, but if you are there with the intention or opportunity to write, if you can tolerate those places and find a corner you might just find the noise and bustle will get blanked out. Give it a go and you may surprise yourself.
A friend of mine used to write on his commute on the London Underground, standing up in a crowded carriage, writing with his thumbs on a tiny hand-held computer. The story he wrote won him a place in the Writers of the Future competition. You can write wherever you happen to be, and write well.
Your Own Mood is too damned precious. You do not need incense*, blue, black, green and red pens, your keyboard aligned with magnetic north or a crystal hanging in the window. Have those things because you like them, not because you absolutely have to have them arranged as some kind of altar before you can summon the Muse and begin to create.
The Muse is ready when you are, she’s twiddling her thumbs, waiting for you to stop farting around and get on with it.
Bums on seats. JFWS (Just Write Something)
They’re Only Words. The words are not that precious either, certainly not in first draft. The only specific and exact words you really have to write are ‘The End.’ Once you have done all your plotting and planning and are ready to write, sit down and do just that. Don’t think about every word, trust your subconscious and let it do its job. After all, the Muse is there with you.
Create one of these rules and live by its limits and you’ve near enough created a little God. If you can’t write until you’ve lit your incense, or it’s 7pm but you can’t find your green pen, then just who is in charge? You’re worshiping at the shrine of something you serve, you are there for it, when it should be helping you.
There are only two things you need to get words written:
- Something to write with.
- Somewhere to write.
The only rules we should have are the ones that set us free. It’s the difference between life lived in a rut and a groove.
Next week: Be Bold.
*Talking of scents, as I write this I’m realising I also don’t need the scent of the carnivorous pitcher plant in the conservatory which is flowering for the first time. Augh – that stinks.