As a new writer, it’s not uncommon to run to the internet and read every blog out there about how to be successful. Likewise, your bookcase quickly becomes a shrine to texts on the right way to write, plot, develop character. The more you read, the more you start to see the threads, the ‘rules’ of writing. Read in your genre, write, learn your craft, write, take classes (especially, my class), write, don’t worry about housework, and don’t forget to write.
I will get to some of these rules later, but today I wanted to talk about the ‘write and write often’ rule.
Humans are born storytellers – don’t believe me, go hang out with some little kids. You will quickly see how their imagination brings up stories and events that owe very little to the mundanity of our true lives. Our brains are wired to teach truths through story. We learn better when we are told a story rather than just a list of facts. Wouldn’t it have been awesome for our teachers to have embraced that? And when we go to our friend’s for coffee, we don’t want them to recite a laundry list of activities to catch us up on their lives. We want the stories of what they have been doing.
Now, let’s get back to those kids. If you sit down with Johnny, age 4, he will tell you a story about his dog and a ball which is repetitive and long winded. As he matures, you ask him for a story at age 8. You are probably in for a least one bum joke in this story, but the story has matured with him. It is more stylised and takes into consideration his interests. By age 14, Johnny now tells stories that take into consideration what you are interested in (or not interested in depending on the circumstance). I could go on. But to cut this short, Johnny has learned how to hone his storytelling ability through trial and error. You know how to story-tell, but you may not know how to put that story down on paper.
This is why you will see the dreaded, ‘just write’ statements by a majority of the writing authorities out there. And if you are like me, the next statement out of your mouth was, ‘great, but how…’
I am going to try to address this question over the next coming months. Today, I want to talk about the actual time allotment needed for writing, and a way to force a writing habit. Because writing needs to be a habit for you.
There are many sorts of ways to get into writing daily. Some people will journal or do a daily writing exercise. Others work on their Works In Progress (WIP) from x to y every day.
When I first started writing, I tried these methods and I found that I lacked the self-motivation and diligence to continue. I would think, ‘oh, I am going to blog every day…just something short. Share my thoughts with the world.’ And I would be successful for the first two or three days. But then about day five, life would interfere, and I would skip that one day… ‘But I will make it up tomorrow’, I would tell myself. And that would be the end of it.
I needed some sort of external drive to help make writing a habit. I found that driver in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). This free activity is an on-line writers’ group. It encourages you to write daily. The challenge it to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. That’s 1,666 words a day. It’s definitely a challenge and it took several tries before I actually made that 50,000 word count.
As November is not that far away, if you are like I was and lack the self-motivation, I encourage you to try NaNo. It’s a positive environment. You will learn a lot. But you might just end up with a writing habit at the end.
Need a writing buddy? You can find me as N J Boyer. I will be there.