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Friday, March 25, 2011

Give Up and Quit Writing Now

You heard me. Quit writing. No one else is going to tell you this, so listen up.


Did you hear me? Every minute you sit staring at that blank page in your word program is another minute lost.

I'm on Twitter far too much for my own good, and one the commonest complaints I hear is, "I've been staring at my screen for hours and nothing is getting done!"

We're all guilty of this. Me as much as anyone else. The prominent theory in the writing world is that if you stick your butt in the chair, the words will come.

This flies in the face of all acknowledged research. I have my best ideas first thing in the morning, late at night, or when I'm driving. Other people tell me they fully realize scenes while running, cleaning, sitting in class, or sitting in meetings at work.

No one says they have have inspiration while staring at a blank page.

It just doesn't happen. The Butt In The Chair method of writing only works if there's something going on upstairs. Until your synapses are firing, you've got nothing.

I learned this the hard way in the past week. In 9 days I wrote 30,000 words. Not quite 4k a day, but not bad either. What I realized from my marathon writing sessions is that unless I had the scenes already mapped out to some extent, nothing happened.

Hours were wasted in staring at the screen.

My butt was in the chair. My manuscript was open. Nothing happened. Because I hadn't put in preparation into the writing.

After three days I realized the solution was to quit writing. Get up, walk away from the computer, do something else, and let your brain process the upcoming scene.

Don't just sit down and expect a toga-robed lady to whisper sweet scenes in your ear, think about your writing!

Do it. I dare you. Next time you're stuck, next time you find yourself flipping over to Twitter or FaceBook rather than writing, quit. Walk away from the computer, spend ten minutes doing something else, and see if you can't get your brain moving again.

If all else fails, at least you'll get some house cleaning done.


  1. I do the planning and plotting while I drive, but I have to schedule my writing time if I am going to get it done.

    You're right though, if I haven't spent the time prepping (while daydreaming down the interstate) then I have nothing to write...


  2. Very true. I've been doing this a lot. I get my best ideas in the shower and while driving.
    Have a great weekend!

  3. Yep, totally agree with this one. I catch myself sitting and staring, until one of the bosses (my kids) needs me, then off I go. While I'm in the midst of food prep, bath or bedtime routines, I think of ways to further the plot. Of course, mommy gets all glassy-eyed from time to time while doing that, so the kids are thinking mommy's gone loony. They're probably right :)

  4. You're speaking the truth, and only the truth. I don't ever stare at a blank document because I don't sit down to write if I don't have an idea banging on the walls of my head, begging to get out. So I follow your process the other way around - think first, write afterwards. Anyway, I do most of my 'writing' before I go to sleep. :)

  5. Absolute truth. I used to practice the 'let's write something down now' method of book-writing. I never got very far. Then I practiced the 'sit in the chair until you sweat blood and your eyeballs burst' method. No banana. Now I plan. If I only plan up to a certain point, I might get a scene or two beyond it and then I'm screwed. No planning, no progress. Simple as.

    Or it's REALLY slow progress. Like half a lifetime by which point I've tried and abandoned/screwed up a billion other ideas. Which I'm not a fan of either. It's bad for the ego.

  6. Brilliant thoughts. I too have to "disconnect" to get my good planning and thinking done. When I was little, before the Internet, I used to come up with the best ideas daydreaming on the bus or even in class (!). I'm trying to rekindle that now, but it's hard.

  7. So true! If I find myself staring without a word in my head, I either turn on the TV and pull out a notebook to write about the scene (rather than write the scene), or I clean.

  8. I definitely get my ideas at work or my role-playing game.

  9. I couldn't agree more. This is why I outline/map my scenes ahead of time, and often far away from the computer.