Getting Started (Feature Post)

By Suzy Spencer

On Thursday, WLT Publicity and Programming Manager Jan Baumer and I agreed that I’d write a blog post about how to get started writing your book. I should have started writing the post that day. Instead, I told myself I’d do it Saturday. Saturday I said I’d do it on Sunday.

Sunday I reluctantly sat down and, while watching NFL playoffs, I finally wrote 100 words.

I hated them. I thought they were downright rude. But I told myself at least I’d started, I could fix them later. And since I’d started, I could go to the gym, watch the rest of the football game while on the treadmill, and then come home and get back to writing. I went to the gym, after which I drove over to my mother’s and ate everything I could find. I came home, climbed into bed too soon, and ate more while watching TV and Facebook. I watch Facebook like it’s an internet soap opera. It is my greatest distraction. I didn’t write another word that night.

On Monday, I went to lunch and then came home with the absolute intention of writing the blog. Instead, I took down Christmas lights, pulled weeds, tried to solve a crash on my own blog, answered emails that could have waited, fretted over a friend, and watched Facebook.

I could go on, but you get the idea – I’m procrastinating. Only when deadline neared – and after eating dinner – did I finally do what I had to do:

1. Sit my butt in the chair.

2. Turn off the Internet.

3. Ignore anything and everything else.

4. And start writing.

When it comes right down to it, that’s the only way to get started.

But as writers, we want to believe there’s a magic potion that we can sip, that will slip us into muse-mode, that will quiet the demanding children and needy spouses, that will provide us with the perfect room of solitude, and that will miraculously ooze beautiful words from our fingertips. There is no such magic potion. The only thing that’s going to get us started writing is sitting down and writing. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the mood, whether you have inspiration or an idea, or a peaceful space. You just have to write. And that can be terrifying. So I am going to offer you a few more quick tips:

5. Stop reading about how to write. Instead, write. (If you must read about how to write, limit yourself to Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.)

6. Stop looking for the perfect place and undisturbed time to write. It’s not going to happen. Accept that and grab whatever writing time and place you can, even if it’s only enough time to write one line while waiting for your child to decide whether he’s going to have McNuggets or a hamburger.

7. Stop looking for inspiration. Just write. That’s what separates the published from the unpublished. The professionals write because they have to, not because they’re inspired.

8. If you can’t figure out what story to write, don’t stress over it. Write about what’s bothering you in your life, or what’s bothering your child or spouse. Stare at the plumber who is working on your toilet, or the woman eating alone in Whataburger, and make up a story about him/her. Is she really a murderer faking it as an innocent writer? Is he plumber dealing with his son’s cancer? Write anything.

9. If you can’t figure out how to open your story, don’t worry about that either. Write any sentence, any scene, any emotion, any line of dialogue. It can be from the middle of the story or it can be the last line of the story. It doesn’t matter. Just write something.

10. Create a “signal” that tells your brain it’s time to write. It could be the scent of a particular candle, a note you hear on the piano, the angle of the sun as it hits the dining table.

11. If you find yourself staring at the blank page or blank screen and become stuck in fear, scribble or type gibberish to fill the page. Fake yourself into believing you’re already writing.

12. Don’t feel deflated and defeated when imperfect words appear on the page. Instead, praise yourself for writing something. Remember the cliché, perfect words aren’t written – they’re rewritten.

And that’s why it doesn’t matter what you write when you’re getting started. All that matters is that you write.

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