If I never laid my fingers on the keys of a computer, or never put pen to paper to express my thoughts, I could not call myself a writer, could I? A writer writes. I write my best when I write every day. Writers who are serious about their craft do not let life get in the way. We guard and stick to our writing schedules. Most of us keep calendars to mark doctor appointments, meetings, etc. How about writing? If the time is not set aside it is very likely to slip away. We can’t let that happen. I try to write every day, or at least go over what I have written the day before. To keep going, we all need nourishment, so does our writing. We need to stay connected. We need to keep our characters and story alive by breathing life into them each day.
Some writers say they need to wait for inspiration – and that is fine, so long as they make sure they are inspired every day. Some writers have rituals they perform before sitting down to write; whether it is getting a cup of coffee, wrapping up in a favorite blanket or going for a walk first. After discovering what works for us, it’s time to settle down to the business of writing. Some people believe that stories come to me while walking on the beach. That might work for some, but not for me. My thoughts crystallize at the keyboard. What I get mostly on my walks is exercise and a chance to listen to books on tape. Sure I get ideas while out on the ocean front, thoughts that often interfere with my listening skills, but that’s why there is a rewind option. For me the way I can most effectively breathe life into my characters is at the keyboard. If I take the wrong direction, which I usually only discover after I’ve written the scene, there is always the delete key. Even when I’ve written a terrific scene, if it doesn’t move the story it has got to go. I write to discover what I am thinking–the story my characters want to tell. Until I have written a scene, I have nothing to improve on–no ideas to expand–nothing that carries me to the next scene.
Writing is a practice. Nobody gets it right the first time. The idea is to sit down and write and write and write until we know what we want to say, and then write that. For every ten pages we write, we may only get one or two paragraphs of useable material, but that’s ok. If we hadn’t written those ten pages, we wouldn’t have those useable paragraphs. I don’t know of a single writer who sits down and immediately writes gold every day. We have to be willing to fail, to write garbage, to throw away drafts which express only surface thoughts and dig down to what is real. Sometimes, our first instinct is real, and then our brain kicks in and starts to edit it and rework it. We must guard against covering up the real emotion. Contrived, commercialized, politically correct statements seldom stir our readers. We should not be afraid to express what is real–what is below the surface. Who will it hurt? We are certainly not going to send our first draft out to anyone, so why not let go and let every thought, every feeling come out? We may sit down to write one thing and discover that what we really want to write is something entirely different. Unless under contract to write a particular piece, why not push the original idea aside for now and write what our brain or heart is telling us? There is usually a reason why we write what we write. Our brains and hearts are truly amazing; learn to trust them more. Some writers find that stream of consciousness writing is a wonderful way to get started if blocked, or even if they aren’t. We need to let our minds take a stroll, or even a sprint down a new pathway and just go along for the ride; we may be surprised where it leads us.
There is no one right way to write. If we were to ask a dozen writers about their process, we would get a dozen different answers. It doesn’t matter what our process is, so long as we do it consistently. We don’t want to waste too much time in inactive thought. We need to be willing to write poorly and get it out. A poorly written story can be turned into gold though diligent rewriting. Take action. Be real. Get to the truth, drop the filters, and write from your heart. Just do it.