Sunday, February 24, 2013

Do You Want To Write A Novel?

I encourage anyone who wants to write a novel! Making up stories for a living is the greatest job there is. Here is one of the most helpful things I can think of.
Writers write.
I know, it's an old cliche, but it's true.
The whole thing about the art of writing being the application of the seat of your pants to a chair is accurate. But much of writing isn't the typing part. The majority of writing is thinking. This happens in a variety of ways. Writers are often working on their novel even as they wash the dishes, drive to appointments, shovel the driveway, or take a shower. (I can't tell you how many times I've gotten out of the shower, completely focused on my book, only to wonder if I remembered to wash my hair – what little of it there is.) For me, much of writing is done taking long walks, walks where I'm not bird-watching or talking. The most important part of writing an effective novel is figuring out the intricacies of plot and conjuring up characters that are as real as your next-door neighbor. One can do much of that while engaging in habitual activity that doesn't require thinking.
But, unfortunately, this mix of writing while doing something else doesn't work if the something else involves talking or hanging out with other people. Nor does it work when the TV or radio is on. (Listening to background music, whether it be Yo Yo Ma or Aerosmith or Louis Armstrong is different, but only if your brain can keep it in the background.)
Writing at Carleton College

In short, if you want to write, you have to say no to most activities most of the time. I often think that that is the hardest part about writing, disconnecting yourself from the phone, the internet, the TV, the radio, the other people in the house.
Yes, some people like to write while surrounded by a crowd, but they are a small minority. I, too, have written entire chapters at Starbucks or the airport. But mostly, one needs to be alone and quiet.
So if you want to write, one of the best things you can do is turn off your phone, find some quiet solitude, and start writing.
Speaking of which, I better get back to this novel I've been working on.
Writers write.

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