Things I wish a bigger writer had told me or how to write real good without even trying, part one.
by SJ Griffin
A little while ago someone called Louise posted a comment asking how I get settled down to write and this got me thinking about all the things I wish a bigger writer had told me before I made lots of my own mistakes. I figure that I am definitely not a bigger writer but I will do until a bigger writer comes along. Sometimes they are really busy doing bigger writer things and forget to come along to help us and I’m here twiddling my thumbs so we might as well get started with my new series of post called: Things I wish a bigger writer had told me or how to write real good without even trying.
Make writing a habit.
When I was in my late teens and early twenties I was the Greatest Novelist That Ever Lived. And it was really easy to be the Greatest Novelist That Ever Lived because it didn’t involve any writing. It involved a lot of drinking, a lot of watching the TV and movies, a lot of hanging about with my mates talking big talk and a lot of reading. But most of all it involved a lot of daydreaming about how I was definitely the Greatest Novelist That Ever Lived despite no one else realising this. There was a lot going on but no writing. Let’s leave the ridiculous notion of the Greatest Novelist That Ever Lived aside for a moment, because I want to be very serious and very clear for a moment. Hear this: you cannot be a writer if you do not write. It does not matter how hard you want it, how much it hurts or how brilliant you will be when you do it. You cannot be a writer if you do not write. There, that’s enough being serious and clear.
Chin up, chicken. I have glad tidings. All you have to do to be a writer is write. And all you have to do to write is sit down at the page and fill it up. Simple.
What? It is simple. You just have to make it a habit. Stop freaking out. I will tell you what I did and I will lay it out in handy steps for you. Here:
1. Buy an exercise book just like the ones you had in school.
2. Aim to fill a page in your exercise book a day. If you want to write more, do so but know that at the end of the week when you count up how many days you wrote, writing three pages on Thursday will not make up for not writing on Monday and Tuesday. Just aim to write a page a day that you will never show to anyone or read back within two months of having written it.
3. I already said this bit by accident but at the end of the week count up how many days you wrote on. If it’s less than four, steel your resolve and try to do better next week. If it’s more than five, well, you are well on the way to becoming a writer. And possibly the Greatest Novelist That Ever Lived.
That is it, really. Try not to fix on a particular pen or a particular time. Being particular will just give you an excuse not to write, it really doesn’t matter if you write in crayon as long as you write. It doesn’t matter if you write the moment you wake up or you go to bed and then remember you haven’t done your page and get up again. Or if you do it at work, or on the train, or while having dinner. I don’t recommend doing it while watching the television but I am so prejudiced about the television these days that I refuse to even acknowledge that television is where those brilliant Breaking Bad boxsets are from. I am certainly not excited about ho they are going to film the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones. Anyway, if you commit to this simple three step programme for a month, maybe not even that long, I promise you will develop the writing habit.
What? What do you write? You have no problem sitting down in front of the page but the words don’t turn up? I see.
You’re right sitting staring at a blank piece of page or an empty screen does not a writer make. But again, courage gentle reader, this is the joy of your new exercise book. Because it’s not a fancy moleskine or made of vellum, and it better not be, it doesn’t matter what you write. Start with ‘This morning, for breakfast, I had…but I would have preferred to have…’ or ‘today the weather was…and this made me feel…’ and just write whatever nonsense comes into your head. You’re not going to show it to anyone and you’re not going to read it back for two months, if you do at all, so what does it matter what you write? A classic entry of my own begins ‘I really hate that bitch and if she does that again I will kill her…’ I don’t elaborate on what she did but I make it wonderfully clear that wasn’t very happy about it. Apparently, she was ‘like some kind of joy vortex and vacuum of anything positive and right’. Who was she? I have no idea. She was probably very good looking. Start writing these journal type things but if something else comes out, that’s all right. Once in a while a character for a story will turn up, or a really exciting sentence or even something that rhymes if you are so inclined. It doesn’t matter though, just write. Write your page every day. Then eventually, whenever you sit down you can start thinking about what you write. For now though we are right at the very beginning. Being Greatest Novelist That Ever Lived will come later.