Thursday, July 11, 2013

How To Keep Writing

G Travels / Foter / CC BY-NC
Not to long ago, a writer friend asked me to coffee, she had a question for me.

"Sure," I said, waiting for the specific question to follow in the next email.

It didn't.

And I didn't ask.

But the mystery question worried me, nagged at me, made me paranoid even. WHAT DID SHE WANT TO KNOW??

We met at a local coffee shop, ordered, smiled, hugged, asked about family. She seemed nervous, she was making me nervous. I assumed we were meeting to discuss writing, so I moved in.

"How's the writing going?"

And then, we get to it.

It turns out, her question for me was as simple as it was complex.


How is it done? How do you write? How do you find the time?--were the obvious questions that were easy to discuss. It turns out, however, that the real questions went a little deeper.

My friend has an amazingly supportive husband who had set their basement up as her writing cave complete with computer, printer, writing software, and a DOOR! I don't have a DOOR! He had even purchased her domain name for her!

Wow, right?

Except, even in this seemingly perfect writer world, not much actual writing was getting done.

So, back to her real question: How do you maintain enough belief in yourself to start and continue writing BEFORE there are many (or any) external reinforcements (Agent, Editor, Book Deal, Readers)

Here is where the writer/psychologist took a sip of coffee, looked at the ceiling bewildered, and shrugged her shoulders, "Hell if I know," I said. Okay, no it wasn't that bad, but I'm pretty sure I sighed and nodded my head in a sad acknowledgement of the writerly conundrum.

Because how indeed? 

It has to be a different answer for everyone--right? How did I keep writing, WHY did I keep writing when there was nothing to be heard on the horizon besides a Greek chorus of, "NOOOOO!"

All I have are a multitude of answers that all sound equally hokey:
  • I didn't want to stop (Mostly. Sometimes I cried and swore I was done, only to come crawling back, begging Thoth for forgiveness the next morning.)
  • I believed it would (eventually) happen.
  • Some people (besides my mother) did like my writing (albeit they were not publishing professionals with the big brass keys to big locked gates.)
  • And finally, the most annoying answer of all: It felt right. 
Writing, and being on this path FEELS like what I should be doing--and so I kept doing it and I still keep doing it.

Now back to her question: How?

Show up (no bullshit--SHOW UP), take out your pen or your keyboard, set an achievable daily goal, and do it.

It's not glamorous, its rarely tangibly rewarding, but the words get laid down and, eventually, if you've shown up to your writing most days, and worked REALLY hard, all those individual words add up to a big pile of crap you will now have to revise--extensively.

But that's really another post all together.

Up next: How To Keep Revising! 




  1. Wow, that is one nice supportive husband! And you're right, you set a goal and you just do it. :)

    1. I know, right?! I mean...she has a door!! :-)

  2. He definitely wins most supportive husband award for sure. I think for people who are inclined to write, it is just something we need to do. Writing for me helps me organize my thoughts. When I think about it that way instead of thinking of it as something I HAVE TO do, then it just comes naturally.

  3. Hello Rebecca! When it is on sale the book in Mexico? Receive greetings from León, Gto.

  4. Thanks for this. Sometimes, when I talk to people who are feeling creatively blocked, I ask "do you actually enjoy writing (or whatever the creative activity is) ?" It seems to me that it's one thing to like the concept of being a writer, and another to actually enjoy the day-to-day task of writing. I think the latter is possible, and I really enjoy the process of writing songs, but I think it's important for people to recognize the distinction.

  5. Good stuff. It's always so interesting to hear about what gets other writers started or what keeps them going.

    For me, I've found how happy I am writing has a lot to do with how focused I am on the ‘end game.’ The more I worry about selling books or hoping my next novel is well received/sells like mad, the less I enjoy the day to day work of writing itself. It helps to remind myself I write because I want to write, and the part about sometimes selling books is just a bonus.