Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Write Now

In my workshop on Sunday a young writer asked me how to write when he didn't feel like writing. As a writer, I've had times like that. I still do. You think about writing something, whether it's a project you're working on, or a new one you want to start, or even... well, even a blog entry, and you just don't feel up to the task. Nothing pulls you into the project. No ideas float into your head (they never do). Or you're convinced you have nothing to say. How do you write then?

My answer is one I have to credit to author Caroline B. Cooney— "You can do anything for 15 minutes." You grab a kitchen timer, set it for 15 minutes, sit down with pencil and paper (or in front of your computer) and write.

It doesn't matter what you write. It doesn't matter how you start. It doesn't matter if what you write turns out to be 90% garbage (which, so I've heard, everything is). It matters that you write.

When you're done, you can look back over the garbage and glean out the 10% that isn't garbage. And whatever isn't garbage... is treasure.

But you may just find that when the timer beeps or buzzes or dings (or whatever your timer does), you'll be annoyed with that timer. Because you don't want to stop writing. You're into your project. Your head is pouring over with ideas, and they have to come out right now. Or, best of all, you still have a lot more to say!

Hey, just because you've done something for 15 minutes doesn't mean you can't tack on another 15!

So here's today's challenge. Grab that timer. Tell your family that you are going to write now, and they aren't to interrupt you for twenty minutes (tell them "twenty" because they'll probably forget the last five). Pull out your journal. Open your word processor. Read the last few pages of your project. And write.
Write now.

--- Howard Shirley

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