Note to Self: Get Serious About Your Writing

Posted: July 24, 2011 in Uncategorized
Former basketball player Michael Jordan

Man, I've got to sit down soon and work on my autobiography.

One of the first questions which always comes up in an author-related workshop or reading is:  What is your writing routine? Because we are not good at sitting our butts down to write, we think there must be some secret.

I’ve heard of an author who writes one page a day. In one year he has a finished book. Another writes for 30 minutes a day (the idea being once you get started you may write longer).

Jean Auel wrote after her husband and family went to bed from midnight to five or six a.m. and slept after her kids and husband started their day. I have a friend who wrote after her children went to bed until midnight. Every night.

The one similarity you can see in these examples is the need to be consistent and that’s where amateur writers get into trouble. We have no discipline.  So what Jessica Morrell, a Portland author with six published writing books, wrote in this month’s issue of the Willamette Writer’s newsletter struck me as enlightening and just what I needed to hear at this point in my writing career.

Jessica suggests to be serious about our craft, writers need to go “Pro.” She likened it to a professional basketball player practicing every day to make it to the NBA.

“What distinguishes a professional writer?” Morrell asks. “A pro shows up for work every day; a pro is patient; a pro endures adversity. A pro doesn’t take success or failure personally; a pro accepts no excuses; a pro plays hurt.”

Some of the tips she suggests: Dress professionally (when attending conferences, workshops, or pitching to agents); attend more writing workshops (paying attention to technique and the craft of writing);  and show up with a lunch pail attitude toward your work. Punch in and treat the task at hand with commitment and consistency.

I’ve been thinking about the consistency aspect of writing recently. I’ve wondered what I will do when an agent takes me on and when I get a book published. No more taking two or three years to write a book for a publishing house. Most of them want a series character and may want two more books in the next two to three years.

It will be too late to try to develop the discipline I need to make such deadlines. That discipline needs to be developed now.  So does that mean if you can’t sit down and write five to seven times a week, you might as well forget about being published?

I wouldn’t go that far. Learning to write a novel is a process. You have to learn the craft, get a few manuscripts under your belt while developing your technique, and start networking with other writers and people in writing circles, etc. Basically there are a number of steps one must take to learn the craft and get published. One of them will include “getting serious.”

Maybe you aren’t this far along in the process. Perhaps next month you will be willing to take that step. It might not happen for another year. Two years, ten years.  When your awareness is clear, your goals are set, the planets are all aligned, a little light may go on in your head, and you may say, of course, this is what I need to do. But do you really want to wait that long?

Awareness is key. You must have it to come out of denial. No longer can you think somehow I will  magically acquire discipline. You must want it bad enough to work at it. Nothing comes easy, but hard work often does pay rewards. Maybe your reward will be a three-book contract with a major publisher.

Now that you have the awareness that nobody’s going to drop that fat book contract into your lap, what will you do about it? Procrastinate or start working on a consistent pattern of writing that works for you?

You may want to make a conscious commitment TODAY to turn “Pro.”

  1. […] Note to Self: Get Serious About Your Writing ( […]

  2. Sher Davidson says:

    Thanks, Don, for the good pep talk. I am getting more discipline as the days go by. I usually write at least a half hour a day and sometimes three hours from nine to midnight. Really learned a lot at the pre-conference workshop yesterday with Leona Grieve. She’s great and provided lots of helpful info on writing a good Query letter, Synopsis, and the process of seeking out an agent.
    Fishtrap, last week, in the beautiful Wallawas was wonderful,too. Will share a bit next week if you’d like, at our Writers Group. See you Friday.

  3. Wendela says:

    This is a great blog – thanks for all the useful and inspiring information. I look forward to meeting you at the Willamette Writers consult desk.

  4. Maureen Kay says:

    Thanks, Coach!

  5. […] Note to Self: Get Serious About Your Writing ( […]

  6. […] Note to Self: Get Serious About Your Writing ( […]

  7. […] Note to Self: Get Serious About Your Writing ( […]

  8. […] Note to Self: Get Serious About Your Writing ( […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s