Quit fighting it and start writing it
May 21, 2012
On novels alone, not counting blogs like this one, over the course of the last three years, I have written about 350,000 words give or take. On average, I can write a 60,000-75,000 word novel in about five or six months. By that reckoning, I should be able to produce two books a year.
I got to thinking about this and did some self-evaluation. I completed my last book in October of 2011. Since then, I have written the first one hundred pages in another one, stopped it mid-stream and started another. That means I am behind my self-imposed writing schedule by a long shot for the last seven months.
As best I can tell, there are two main reasons I have slowed down. The first is that I have allowed book promotion to become too big of a priority. Blogging and social media will consume a writer’s time if he lets them. I don’t regret these efforts to get the word out about my writing, but I know there has to be a proper balance between them and the real deal.
The real deal for a writer is writing.
The second reason I have slowed down is because I wasn’t excited about the subject matter of the book I was writing. I had come to feel that I was writing just to complete my next book.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe a professional writer should be able to write about all sorts of things.
I remember hearing a story about how Kris Kristofferson came to write “Me and Bobby McGee.” Kris was the hottest songwriter in Nashville at the time. His producer came to him and handed him a napkin with something written on it.
“What’s this?” Kris asked him.
“It’s your next hit song,” the producer said.
Kris looked at the napkin. It had four words scribbled on it: Me and Bobby McGee.
That’s all Kris needed.
I think fiction writers can do the same thing. Give them an idea, any idea, and they can create a story or a book about it.
But the fact remains that, for me anyway, it is nice to write about something that sets me on fire, an idea that just keeps nagging at me and trying to find its way out on the page until I give into it.
No writer knows how or why such things come to him. Maybe it’s in the middle of the night when he can’t sleep, maybe when he sees a news report or attends a football game. Maybe it’s when she sits on a church pew listening to a sermon or at a wake for a long-time friend who died too young. Maybe it’s when she plays Scrabble with her kids or wrecks her car.
But such things do come to all writers.
One of them came to me a few days ago. I resisted it because I didn’t want to stop my current project and switch gears. The idea wouldn’t relent. I began to think about it as I drove my car, as I lay in bed, while I watched TV.
So, earlier this week, I quit fighting it and started writing it.
Now when I sit at the keyboard I can’t wait to see what will come next in the story. I feel as if I am trying to catch up to a plot that is running ahead of me, waiting just around the bend.
That’s why a writer should write. He should write because the writing makes him feel good, energizes him and makes demands on him.
And, no. I’m not going to tell you what my latest story is about. I have to ride the rapids a while longer to see where the river takes me.
But, I know this much. It’s a fun ride.
Quit fighting it and start writing it.