Friday, April 22, 2011
As the painter and author Frederick Franck wrote, “You shall not wait for
inspiration, for it comes not while you wait, but while you work.”
You must believe your art is important and deserves your attention. So must your family and friends. I’ve found five ingredients that make a book writer’s practice successful. If all five are in place, they will support and sustain the long journey.
Five Fundamental Practices
1. Find and honor your best time to write.
2. Keep writing equipment private, secure, and in good working order.
3. Have a dedicated writing space.
4. Have a set time to write.
5. Close the door to the world when you are writing.
Some writers try these five, start a writing practice, have good success for a while, then suddenly give up. Life intervenes. But a close examination of what “life intervening” means, comes down to choice. There are always ten minutes to write, but when stress is high, it’s easier to face the evening news than face ourselves.
Writing takes us to scary places sometimes. Our interior lives are often more frightening than anything television can offer. We get overwhelmed with our books, the enormity of the project we’ve taken on. We begin to resent the routine, the demands of the book. We want to rebel, say, “Forget this!”
I watch for three signs of this: increasing self-critique, getting sick, and other people who “suddenly” need me.
Self-critique comes via that small voice that whispers, “Why bother? This is all terrible anyway.” It fuels self-doubt—Who are we to think we’re writers? Sometimes it also fuels anger, nudges us to prove we’re the boss and show it by breaking the writing rhythm.
If derailment doesn’t come via doubt or anger, it shows up with getting sick. I’ve come down with an unexplainable headache or cold in the middle of an important writing project, and I’ve begun to see this as a sign of self-sabotaging.
A third derailment comes via people who suddenly need rescuing. I believe in my own perverse ability to “manifest” this: I think it’s a law of attraction in the universe that when I need to rebel, someone needs me urgently. A dear friend will get sick and I’ll just have to stop writing to make chicken soup.
When my practice gets derailed by these kinds of fears and frustrations, I go back to my original vision for my book. I revisit my original motivation for writing this book.
Your Weekly Writing Exercise: Facing Common Saboteurs
This week, try this simple but effective exercise in self-inquiry. It may tell you exactly where you're sabotaging your book.
Answer the questions below, then take action on one of the solutions.
1. Do you try to fit writing in between everything else?
Solution: Make a daily date for your writing and mark it into your calendar each week.
2. Do your family, spouse, partner, pets, children, or roommates hijack your writing time?
Solution: Have a family meeting to discuss why it’s important to you to write regularly. Ask for their help.
3. Do you lack the equipment you need to write well?
Solution: Get a laptop or desktop computer and printer. Organize computer files to keep research manageable. If you prefer to write longhand, get a really great pen and stacks of legal pads.
4. Does someone else commandeer your writing equipment?
Solution: Talk with them about the need to keep your writing private. This is basic. If you have to share a computer, get a password to protect your privacy. If it’s a desk you must share—then create a portable one. Put pen and paper in a briefcase, lock it, and leave it by your writing chair. You don’t want to feel restricted about which topics you can safely explore.
Excerpted from Your Book Starts Here: Create, Craft, and Sell Your First Novel, Memoir, or Nonfiction Book, by Mary Carroll Moore. To order a copy today, click here.
Posted by Mary Carroll Moore at 8:43 AM