December Writing Challenge: Tough-Love Pep Talk

Greetings, writers! How goes the challenge? No doubt you’ve had a busy first week of December. Scrambling to get work projects completed by the holidays? Shopping for gifts? Hanging up holiday decorations and planning menus? Maybe you’ve attended a party or school holiday concert. Or you could be prepping to travel — booking those airport shuttles and dusting off your suitcases. But even with all that, you’ve still managed to write each day, haven’t you?

Here’s the thing: only you can decide where your priorities lie. And I’m not telling you writing has to be a top priority. It doesn’t. What I am telling you, however, is that if you want to be a writer who publishes, who shares their work with the world, that takes diligence and practice and a lot of time actually spent writing. No other way around it. Even natural talent only takes you so far. What gets you the rest of the way is writing and rewriting and rewriting some more.

Do you want to write? Not just see your books on shelves somewhere and claim the title of published writer, but do you actually like to sit and put down the words and see your worlds form on the page or screen? Again, only you can tell. But here is a hint: If you need to force yourself repeatedly to sit down at your keyboard, if you get all your chores done rather than write, if you spend lots of time imagining yourself as a published author but don’t actually finish anything — chances are very good you’re only in love with the idea of writing.

Human beings are funny creatures. In most instance, we do the things we want to do, and avoid the things we don’t want to do. Now, as adults we generally suck it up and do a lot of things we’d rather not, like pay our bills and do our tax returns and politely eat that vegetable that smells like dirty feet because we’re a guest in someone else’s home. But writing doesn’t fall into the categories of life’s necessities or good manners. Instead if falls into that category of the things we squeeze into our lives, one way or another.

The typical excuse for not doing something is that you could not “find” the time. Reality, however, tells us that no one ever finds extra time lying around the house. Maybe hiding under the carpet or behind the long drapes in the living room. Out in the yard? No. If there’s something you want to do, you make the time.

December is a truly busy month. There’s lots to do, plenty of demands being made on your time. But ask yourself where your priorities are, and then live that decision. Is writing important to you? Do you love it, even on the days it frustrates you? Then make the time to fit it into your day. Put it on your calendar as an appointment with yourself. Turn off your cell phone. Shut down the internet. Even if it’s just for a half hour, commit to your dream, your goal, your joy. Only you can decide if it’s something you consider worth doing.

Now go write.

A Poetic Pep Talk

Everyone has an off day. One where the writing won’t come, the words won’t cooperate. One where you can’t even get to your writing because your kid has the measles or your boss slams you with a project that keeps you working overtime all week, and the only thing you truly want to do once you finally get a break is to fall down on your couch with a pint of ice cream and a spoon and something cheesy on TV. And that’s fine. It’s human. Just remember that the writing will be there the day after, and you will get up and go write.

For anyone struggling today, or just in case you want a bit of poetry in honor of National Poetry Month, I’ll leave you with the wondrous Maya Angelou and her words of wisdom.


December Writing Challenge: Check In #1

We’re a week into December, which means those of you participating in my December Writing Challenge have seven days under your belts (or a few less if you started late). How goes it, writers? Have you managed to write daily? Are you feeling more committed to your craft? Is making yourself and your writing a priority more or less challenging than you anticipated? Or maybe you’re working on a secret project. Does it feel extra special knowing that it’s just for you for the time being? I think it’s fun to have a secret this time of year that has nothing to do with the holidays — something private and personal.

Of course, writing every day when you have a busy life clamoring for attention can be difficult. But the truth is, something will always pop up to distract you. Sometimes it’s the day job, sometimes family members or friends, and sometimes it’s a chore you’ve convinced yourself is more important than your own writing goals. But if you want to write, if you’re serious about making it your career, then you can’t let yourself be drawn into every distraction. Only you can decide if there’s a real need for your attention or intervention, or if it’s something that can slide (or get solved by someone else).

So today, at this one week mark of the challenge, I urge you to stay strong. You’re not being selfish to want to spend time working on your writing. You’ve committed to the craft and the craft requires regular practice if you want to succeed. Whether you have a deadline looming or are struggling with your very first project with no contract in sight, writing is important to you, and you deserve time to flex your writing muscles, even if you can only manage a half hour each day. So keep at it, stay committed, and happy writing!

Pep Talks for Writers

We’re almost halfway through November. Are you frantically trying to catch up with your NaNoWriMo word count? Or are you just trying to get ahead with your work in progress so you can relax and enjoy the holiday season?

Whatever your goals, this time of year can be a difficult one for writers. So many distractions. There’s all the usual ones, of course. Kids, work, housecleaning, parents, in-laws, pets, etc. Plus those virtual ones, like blogging and Twitter and Tumblr. Throw in plans for Thanksgiving dinner, shopping for gifts, holiday parties. You get the picture.

Here’s the catch. Writers write. That’s what you do. Whether you’re multi-published or just slaving away on that first novel, if you self-identify as a writer or wish to, you need to write.

I’m not saying everyone needs to write every single day. Not all writers do. But you need to commit. Sit in the chair, pull out the pad or put your hands on that keyboard, and generate words. Some of the words will be awful, but you can worry about that later. You can’t rewrite or edit or polish until you do the actual writing.

So here is my pep talk for you. Every writer, alive or dead, had to start somewhere. They had a first project with a first sentence on an empty page. The second project started the same way; first sentence on an empty page. They practiced by writing. They became better writers by writing. They acquired new skills, new understanding of plot structure and characterization and setting, of pacing and motivation, by writing. They probably wrote thousands and thousands of words before any of their work saw the light of day or earned them a penny. They wrote.

Life will always try to get in your way. There will always be something or someone crying out for your attention. Sometimes you will need to address that something or someone. But much of the time you will need to be selfish and continue to write. Make the time. Make it your priority. If you don’t put your writing first, no one else will.

If you want to be a writer, write. Yes, you need to do other things. Read every day, good books, books of all kinds. Maybe improve your vocabulary. Work on your grammar skills. But at the end of the day, the one and only must-have to become a writer is the ability to sit down and write. You can do this. Write.

Should you want additional pep talks, you can find some great ones over at the NaNoWriMo pep-talk archive. But don’t use reading them as an excuse not to get cracking on that manuscript.

So? What are you waiting for? Go. Write.