Thursday, May 03, 2007

Seven Deadly Sins and Writing: Sloth

There are several things that a nascent writer hears over and over: write what you know; show don’t tell; and write every day. I think we can argue about the validity of the first two, but I’ve found that the last one actually stuck with me… even now, several published books later.

Stephen King in his book On Writing talks about how if you sit down at the same time every day, your Muse knows where to look for you. I think he’s right. The habit of writing, though often hard to establish, is worth the effort.

When I wrote my first novel (still unpublished) I set myself a goal, very arbitrarily, of 425 words a day. Some days, with a full time job, a family, and whatnot – it was hard to make that paragraph. Still, if I did it, I was that much closer to THE END. And, more often than not, if I started 425, I’d end up with 600 or 1,000.

Unlike some, I didn’t tell myself WHEN I needed to write those words each day, just that I needed to write them. For me, I found that if I could be flexible, I would find the time to write. I would write during lunch, during downtime on the job, after dinner, late at night, early in the morning, or scribble notes on a napkin while out somewhere. As long as I wrote 425 words at some point during the day, I considered myself meeting my goal.

I have always found – and continue to find – that the more I wrote, the easier it was to write the next day. If something interrupted me, say, like life, the next time I picked up the proverbial pen, it was a lot harder to start.

Even so, I have always taken the weekends off. This is a strange personal quirk of mine, but for me, treating writing like a job was what I needed to commit to the career. So, I take weekends off (except during crunch time.) But, what that means for me is that Monday writing is always the hardest.

If I take time off after having finished a big project (say, like a novel,) which I often do… starting up again is a pain. It’s like I’ve forgotten basic sentence structure. Or my writing muscles have atrophied. So, even after all this time, I try to write at least something on my fiction projects every day.

Do you?


Anonymous said...

I do and I don't. By which I mean I know the value of writing daily from doing it, and I do write better and more when I write consistently, but I go through periods when I stop writing for a bit, and then I lose that rhythm.

Same time every day does work better for me, though.

Bethany K. Warner said...

Yep, or at least that's the plan. Sometimes I set word count goals, sometime page counts. Either way, I know that there's an amount of progress I need to make each day.

Kelly McCullough said...

Apparently yes, even on days when I've resolved not to write because of major family crises. Was trying to take a nap after much stress and my brain says "hey, buddy, aren't you normally writing at this time of day?" and then procedes to start filling in important details that I really should make note of. So, I'm off to do that. Sigh.

P.S. Hi Bethany, thanks for commenting. Always nice to get more writerly perspectives here.

Kelly Swails said...

Like you, Sean, I write better when I write every day. I'm also more fit when I exercise everyday. Does either one happen? Not usually. But if I can do 2-3 days of exercise and 3-4 days of writing a week, I'm a happy girl. As to how much I write when I write, it varies. I usually like to shoot for an hour or two at a time; on a good weekend day I'll do two 2-hour stints. That's usually good for 10-15 pages of literary genius, half of which will be trashed the next day.

Erik Buchanan said...

I try to write six days a weeek, but when you only have two hours a night (four if I don't mind getting less that 6 hours sleep) and you have writing, editing, marketing, blogging, website building and publicity to do, something has to give.

But when in doubt, write.

And yes, starting up again after stopping really sucks.