During my years as a dancer, we never went on stage for a performance before we’d had at least one technical rehearsal followed by a final dress. I was really missing those days on Thursday when my IG Live presentation for Page Street in celebration of NaNo (National Writing Novel Month) didn’t occur at its scheduled time due to “technical difficulties.” To be honest, I felt mortified. I’d invited family and writer friends to tune in to an event that didn’t happen. I’d been very excited about talking about and reading from IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN YOU, answering questions, and offering my version of a pep talk to all those amazing writers who were taking on the herculean task of writing a novel in November.
All was not lost, however, as my intrepid husband made a video of my presentation and Page Street posted it on their YA Instagram site.
In case you’re not an Instagram person, I wanted to share my words of encouragement and support to working writers. Here goes:
If I had a dollar for everyone who’s ever told me they’d love to write a novel if they only had the time, I’d be really rich! The truth is, nobody has the time to do the hard work involved in writing a novel. We all live complicated lives, but you are doing it because you have a story you want and need to tell. And I think you should celebrate what an accomplishment that is.
Years ago, I remember reading a self-help book by Susan Jeffers called Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. If you are writing, that’s what you’re doing! And if you’re like me and lots of other writers I know, you’ll have times when you’re sure your writing sucks and no one would ever want to publish or buy this book you’re working on. But what matters is that you’re engaging in the hard work of creation. And the more we work at our craft, the better we get.
When I was in grad school at Seton Hill, there were two pieces of advice that really stuck with me. One is, “You can’t fix a blank page.” And that’s really what I think the spirit of NaNo is all about—getting the words out there. It’s become a cliché to say it’s okay to write a shitty draft—but it’s true. Once you’ve got the raw material down of your story, you’ve got something to work with.
The second piece of advice I got that I found helpful is what I call “butt in chair.” Be intentional about carving time out each day, even if it’s only fifteen minutes, to put your butt in your writing chair and go to work. Truthfully, there are days when I’m so excited about a project I can’t wait to get to my desk. But there are plenty of other days when I just don’t feel like writing—until I’ve gotten started, that is. Remind yourself that it’s okay not to feel like doing the work on any given day. What matters is that you put your time in. And for me, as for many other writers, inspiration tends to come once I’m at my desk, and my butt is firmly planted in my writing chair.
The other interesting thing I’ve discovered is that when I read my work later, I can’t tell the difference between scenes I’ve written when I was excited about writing them, feeling like I was in the zone, and scenes I’ve done when I felt like I was wading through thick mud on a foggy day.
So, I think we have to trust the process, reward ourselves when we’ve gotten some writing done that day, and celebrate by pouring ourselves a glass of wine or making a run to Starbucks for our favorite latte. We’ve made the intentional choice to do creative work. Write on!
So, that’s my pep talk, which honestly, I think I wrote as much for myself as for other writers. This writing gig is challenging—but so worthwhile.
And now I’d love to hear from any other writers reading this: What keeps you writing? And what gets in the way? All comments are welcome.