Recently I received an e-mail from a local published author who had made a guest appearance at our writing group, naturally after her first visit we hoped that she would continue coming.
As you would expect from a words-smith the letter was well written and explained that with the publishing of her current book, getting the cover art sorted and all the other details that had to be resolved, she was now too busy to attend our meetings.
She also mentioned that there were more books that needed to be written and she felt the time was needed for these new projects.
Having penned an e-mail that waved a virtual farewell to the nice lady I was left pondering at the focus on writing of those that have books out there and more sitting waiting.
In the books I have read on the craft of writing fiction a recurring theme is one of discipline. That a strong discipline in when, how long (or quantity), and where needs to be instilled into your life.
Sadly this is a failure in my writing as I weave my life around the demands of circumstance and the needs of others. Often even the half hour reward of self tuition from reading a “how to” book at lunch time gets shelved for other urgent pressing matters.
In Jack Bickham’s book “The 38 most common fiction writing mistakes” this is deemed so important that it is dealt with in the very first chapter. He states that there are those who write and those that make excuses.
The following is from chapter 1, page 1.
“If you are serious about the craft of fiction, you must never make excuses for yourself. You simply cannot allow yourself to:
- Say you’re too tired.
- Postpone work until “later”.
- Fail to work because you’re too busy right now.
- Wait for inspiration.
- Plan to get right at it “tomorrow”.
- Give up because (editors) (agents) (readers) (critics) are unfair.
- Tell yourself you’re too old (or too young) to start.
- Blame others in your family for your lack of free time.
- Say your job is too demanding to allow you any other activity.
Tell yourself that your story isn’t good enough.
Or any of a host of other excuses you may dream up for yourself.”
Well I must admit to three or four of those each week and it is difficult to see what I must do to remedy the situation. The social pressure around any aspiring writer who is holding down a steady job makes it difficult to remain human and still write. Which probably accounts for why so many of them, who I have talked to, write very early in the morning, whilst the rest of the house sleeps.
In order to bring into focus, reasons why you are not managing to write. For one month, each day before you go to sleep, when you haven’t written anything, put down in your journal why you didn’t. At the end of each week review your excuses and look for a common cause (late meal, TV, family).
Then see if you can arrange a workaround for the most common reasons for failure.
This way you can make writing an organised habit and family/life will flow around your routine.
There is a negative flip side to the quality of your writing when burying yourself in your work, spending more time living at the keys than in the real world. This is now covered in “Life on the Right-hand Side of the Menu”.
Jack Bickham’s book “The 38 most common fiction writing mistakes” is a very good book for those pressed for time. Each section is only a few pages long and each can be read during your breakfast, coffee break, bath, relaxing before sleep or even in the toilet.