Sunday, March 20, 2011

Write On

There are a plethora of writing rules out there. Do this, do that, show don’t tell, don’t overuse exclamation points, etc etc. But, I think that there are two that need to be mentioned repeatedly, just to remind us and to inform everyone who doesn’t know already, the real secret to writing. These two rules are write and keep going.

On the outset, the rule a writer must write, is kind of a ‘duh’ moment. If a writer doesn’t write than they are no kind of writer at all. So what do I really mean by this? I can’t seriously be suggesting that the greatest secret to writing is…well, writing. Yes that is exactly what I’m saying. It’s like this, do any of you draw? Throw pottery? Try to learn another language? You may become quite good at it but if you stop for a long length of time, you lose the knack for it.

Now, I’m not saying that if you used to paint like van Gogh you’ll go back to stick figures but what I am saying is that when you get back into, say, painting, you won’t be as good as you once were. It takes time to get used to things again and to work back up to your previous level. Writing gets rusty as well. Just as the hand forgets how to form the shapes with the exact precision it once knew, the brain forgets how to place sentences just so. You lose sense of the story, the rhythm of the poem, it’s a slog to get back to bat again. To quote Inger Mewburn, author of the blog ‘The Thesis Whisperer’ “writing breeds writing.”

And it does. The more you write the easier it becomes to write and not only can you write with more ease but you’ll also improve. In order to get the best out of your ability you must practice practice practice. Try to write something every day. It doesn’t have to be on your current work in progress. It doesn’t even have to be perfect. It can be absolute crap. But don’t let fear of failure lead you to stop writing so that your mind rusts.

Of course there are the times when writing seems to be nothing but an uphill climb through sucking mud and sharp rocks. You know what you want to do. You know where the story is going but for some reason you just—can’t—get it and you’re not sure why. The emotion isn’t there. There is one small piece you are missing, like a tiny key to a gigantic lock. When I hit these times, which I inevitably do, I whine to Skulljuggler and she—being the wise woman she is, tells me to keep going. It is the best advice I’ve ever been given.

Keep going can be used in two senses. The one Skulljuggler generally means is just move on, keep writing—you might get an idea further down the line. And this is helpful and often very correct. But I like to employ another version of keep going, that is, keep going at the problem. Keep picking at it and picking at it until you can crack it open. Try every method you can think of. Holly Lisle’s "Create a Plot Clinic" has some pretty useful advice for that but you can always Google for advice, turn to friends, do guided meditation on youtube, go for a walk, do yoga, freewrite, –rest if you have to, put the problem aside if you must but only for a little while. Any nut can be cracked if you peck at it long enough.

Remember, no matter how stuck you are, no matter how desperate you are, this is your story. The answer lies within you and you can bring it out. Whatever you do, don’t give up and just keep on writing.

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