Every teacher and mentor has said the same thing: you have to write everyday, even if it’s just a paragraph, just sit and write for an hour. Writing is a muscle you have to keep exercising or it grows slack and soft. Sounds easy enough, but so many of us find that harder than getting on a treadmill or lifting weights. You can lead a writer to the computer, but can you make him/her start?
When you’re in the middle of a project, when the ideas are swirling, it’s so much easier. Even when re-writes seem endless, at least you have the outline of a story to deal with. Then you can point to something and tell your friends, that you need just one more chance, one more crack at making the novel right. Now that my first novel is finished, I have to sit down at and look at an empty screen and try to make my brain light up with the next line, the next word. Some people use prompts to jump start their brain, one workshop I was in mandated a word and decreed that everyone can write at least “six lines” to bring into the next session. Others like Natalie Goldberg (who wrote the wonderful “Writing Down the Bones,”) encourages setting up writing partnerships where you meet with a buddy in public and do timed writing exercises. Another writer, Judy Reeves has written several books with all kinds of exercises and prompts do excite that writing muscle. Janet Fitch would suggest reading poetry before you started writing or listening to music. Being part of a writers workshop was very important to me in the development of my novel, FLYING OUT OF BROOKLYN, where I knew I was expected to bring in at least eight pages every week or every other week.
I finally learned that I’m a deadline junkie, I work better when there’s a guillotine hanging over my head ready to strike if I don’t meet my quota. No matter what the deadline, I wait until I’ve been backed up against the wall before my creative juices start flowing. This week I’m doing a four-day intensive writers class to juice my brain so I can go back to the new project I’ve started. I’ll let you know how that works out.