If you want to be a writer you have to show up, sit down, and write. Words may be dictated to you by God as they were for Giacomo Puccini when he wrote the opera Madame Butterfly, but then it’s up to you to do the menial work of getting them down on paper, because you’re just the designated typist. That job involves a lot of hard, laborious, meticulous work that takes dedication and persistence. When it comes right down to it, writing is just a job, and like any other job you have to work at it. Okay, and it’s the only thing that makes you happy.
Writers like to tell other writers to trust the process. Show up, sit down and write, and trust that something good is emerging.
But how do you trust the process? It’s simple. You need a plan that guides your writing:
Pick a place to write in every day
Pick a time to write every day
Pick an amount of time to write every day
That’s it. It could be your favorite coffee shop at 7 a.m. for 30 minutes or your lunch hour. It could be your armchair in your living room at 7 p.m. Do that every day—or at least more days than not—and you’ll find the process is working.
Make it a habit to read work that matches roughly what you hope to write and publish. Read the kind of books you’d like to write, the poems you’d like to write, the articles you’d like to write for magazines. Make it as important as anything else you schedule in your day, and never allow busyness to crowd out the time you devote to consuming other good works.
Just in case nobody every told you, here is some information worth sharing, remembering, celebrating:
The first modern novel every published, The tale of Genji, was written by a Japanese noble woman named Murasaki Shikibu, early in the 11th century.
The best-selling novelist of all time was Dame Barbara Cartland who, before her death in 2000, published 723 novels.
The record for the fastest selling book of all time belongs to JK Rowling, for the seventh and final book of the Harry Potter series, which sold 11 million copies in 24 hours.
Take your eyes off the price and put them on the prize. It’s important to write about things that matter to you. Moral intelligence creates authenticity in a writer. Set yourself something in writing that you are willing to reach for and, therefore, take risks for.
Margaret Atwood, despite her enormous output, does not write every day.
She said: “You always think, ‘Oh, if only I had a little chalet in the mountains! How great that would be and I’d do all this writing…’ Except, no, I wouldn’t. I’d do the same amount of writing I do now and the rest of the time I’d go stir crazy. If you’re waiting for the perfect moment you’ll never write a thing because it will never arrive. I have no routine. I have no foolproof anything. There’s nothing foolproof.”
This woman gives me hope!
Some days I write and the words flow easily. Then, all of a sudden, I’ll hit a bump and run out of words.
No writer should be without a supply of Very Good Words.
So, I’ve started a lexicon practice. A Lexicon Practice is where you put actual time – regular time – into collecting words and phrases.
Leonardo da Vinci did it. James Joyce did it. Mary Oliver does it. Priscilla Long does it. She says, “The writers of deep and beautiful works spend real time gathering words”.
I have a small bound and sewn blank book that I put words in. I haven’t gotten far with it, but this small book is where I record words that strike my fancy. Words I want to savor. Words I want to own.
Dorothea Brande said, “Be on the alert to find appropriate words wherever you read.”
My Lexicon holds new words and old words that please me. It is part of my resource base as a writer.
If you don’t have a Lexicon, consider starting one today. Get a small notebook and start gathering words. Don’t ignore or diminish the power words have to make your writing work.