TODAY’S BREW: Chocolate Something or Other
You don’t just get to be a writer because you like to write.
You don’t even get to be one because you’re good at it.
I like to drink coffee. Doesn’t make me Juan Valdez. I’m good at getting all the laundry done. Doesn’t mean I get to run a Chinese laundry as a front for a drug cartel where I sit around in an awesome suit and make my laundry minions do my bidding.
Liking to write and having some amount of talent for it is the entry fee. It doesn’t win you the writer badge for your coffee-stained sweatpants and tanktop uniform, though.
This is not a new notion: WRITING TAKES WORK AND PRACTICE.
Sure, natural talent helps, but it is far from the being the crux of succeeding as a writer, no matter what way you determine success to be. I don’t just want to succeed as a writer, I am succeeding as a writer. It is a process, like anything worthwhile.
SUCCEEDING MEANS MAKING MEASURABLE PROGRESS AS A RESULT OF A PLAN.
There. Easy, right? I will continue to make it easy. This is what I’m doing to win writing.
I HAVE EXPECTATIONS. When working on a new book, I’m on a 1000 word a day diet. I get up at 5 in the morning to do it. (Thank you, #5amWritersClub) I get right in the shower, to wake myself up and give this process the respect and attention it deserves. Sometimes I screw off on Twitter too long and don’t get as much done as I should, but I don’t say “I’m unmotivated today, blah blah blah, I don’t have any words blah blah.” No, the expectation is 1000 words. Do it or you aren’t as good as your word. (See what I did there?) So I write in 20 word sprints all day or something, but I do it. I check in with Twitter to see who’s doing writing sprints and I join in, reporting my word count back.
I make sure I write a one liner that is solid enough to tweet out in 140 characters. Like having a trophy to show off. Then I build my writing around this one exceptional line like you build a room around the one piece of artwork you had to have. If you were all artsy fartsy and what have you.
IF IT’S CRITICAL, YOU MAKE TIME FOR IT. IF IT’S NOT CRITICAL, YOU’RE NOT A WRITER. There can be no such thing as not having time. The other day, in a half hour, I wrote a bunch of words, made a fort and dealt with a toddler yogurt disaster. Work it in. Don’t live in a world of can’t.
If you really can’t find the time (insert mocking whining), find it. Find it like this; keep a log of what you do every day for a week. 15 minutes eating breakfast, 20 minutes playing Uno with the kid, 10 minutes planning neighbor’s murder, 5 minutes on phone with police. Look for the pattern, look for what you don’t really need to do, or what someone can help you do, look for the spot that has no description. Time is all we have; make it have meaning.
I ALWAYS WRITE. Here’s the kicker, guys. When I finish the book, even while I am letting it rest for a while, I still get up at 5 every day and write something. Keep the mind trained. I don’t take breaks. Because I love it, it isn’t hard for me to write every day. And if you love it, it shouldn’t be hard for you either. I quoteth the great Chuck Wendig when I say, “If you can’t write 350 words a day, you don’t want to be a writer. You don’t get to be a writer.”
Have notebooks everywhere. Get your kids to write with you. Let them see you at work. This can enrich them if done the right way. Writing constantly is what helps develop your voice, what sets you apart from all the other writers out there.
HERE’S THE BIG SCARY. NOW DO SOMETHING WITH IT. Being a writer means taking the plunge every way that matters. You worked hard, now move on it like a goddamn army. I make sure to query with Running Home every week, to Kristen’s anxious cheerleading. I’m submitting short stories to magazines and anthologies all the time. (THANK YOU MATT SINCLAIR AND ELEPHANT PRESS FOR PUBLISHING ME THIS SUMMER.) I’m making the right contacts on Twitter, setting up interviews, going to conferences and meetings, and for a reason. Fun, sure. Means to the end, absolutely. This is my dream, and I will think out of the box to make it a reality. I don’t wait for the first thing to get published before moving on to the next thing. Have a bunch of things to be constantly putting into circulation. Don’t get caught in the wave, be the wave.
SHORT STORY: Even when I wasn’t training for a fight, my Sensei picked me up on Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving to work out. When I asked him why I was doing this, he said “Because your competition isn’t.”
Being a writer is more than just having it in you. In all facets of life I have seen people that had everything it takes to win come in second because they relied on their talent, because they underestimated the one who works harder than they do, and sweats a little more.
BE THE WINNER. PRACTICE AND TAKE THE WORLD BY SURPRISE WITH WHAT YOU CAN DO.