You wanna write? Here’s my fail-safe to-do list

Bird on TongueOk, so you want to write? Excellent. Here’s what you do: First, get a pen and… Oh, that’s a little obvious, I guess. Let’s see, we’ll start with something a little more intentional (I had a boss once who loved that word). I suggest shutting yourself in a room, setting a timer and forcing yourself to write for two straight hours. Now do that at least four times a week. Topic can be anything: short story, essay, letter to you congressman in ancient Valerian.

Oh, and lock the door while you’re writing.

If someone bangs on it and asks: “What you’re up to in there? say: “I’m writing.”

If they gasp and ask, “You? Writing? Why??” Respond: “Because I want to. Go away. I’ll talk to you after two hours.” Set aside $20 for a small gift to make up for the “Go away” part.

After fourth day when they ask, “Just how long are you going to keep this up?” Say: “Until I write the next Great American Novel.”

Ok, maybe that’s a little too much for right now. What’s important, however, is not to be truthful with anyone at this stage, least of all yourself. In fact, I would advise that lying to yourself daily about how much you want to write, how good you’ll be at it and how much the world wants/needs your material is key. You’ll have to do this when it’s eventually time to pitch agents or publishers anyway.

If, during this time of writing two hours at a clip at least four times a week, you decide you want to write an actual story, please do so. Then keep writing until you finish it. No, the quality is not important. Keep writing your crappy story until it’s done. That’s it. Very good. You get a pat on the head. Put a period on the last iffy sentence.

Now exhale a big sigh of relief and go get a favorite beverage. Then go and tell the person with whom you live that you’re finally done. They’ll give you a bewildered smile and turn back to Breaking Bad or Halo, mumbling something like, “I’m glad, hon.” Then they’ll probably ask: “So, are you done done with writing? We can finally get back to normal now?”

At this, laugh (Bwa-ha-ha. You’re a writer for God’s sake!) and turn with a flourish and go get yourself another beverage and toast again, this time by yourself. You’ll have to get used to this too. Writing’s a solo gig, after all.

Good morning! It’s the next day so go ahead drive to your day job. Whoops, you took the wrong way to work because your head is still mush from all last night’s work. Arrive, sit at your desk and see with fresh but bloodshot eyes how pointless it all is. Emails, meetings? Who cares. Don’t these people know you’re a writer? Clearly not; they keep asking for your TPS report.

Welcome home! Now, grab yourself a slice (or two. Fine, make it three) of cold pizza and head upstairs to edit your piece. Aren’t you excited? Yeah, this won’t be fun. But have at it. Just keep editing and editing until you sort of, kind of, maybe like the story – or it’s a shade of its former self. Or it screams in agony, “Stop already! No more!!” Then you’re done for real (until, of course, two years later you come back to it and see that it could really be much better and decide to go for broke on another full edit. But let’s not get hung up on that now.)

Anywho… it’s done! Don’t you feel special? Now send it to a few people for their opinion. Since this is your first story, most of these will be friends and family. Wow, those crickets are loud aren’t they? Oh, but look, one person responded. Wow, that’s a terrifyingly vague comment. They thought it was “touching”? Good thing you wrote about a drug deal gone bad. Did they even read it?

Anyway, go get yourself a treat and lie some more – about how your talent isn’t understood, they aren’t the right audience and someone (somewhere?) will appreciate your work. We all do this. It’s cool. Write in your journal a bit and then cry yourself to sleep. Have a few dreams about that teacher in grade school who hated you. Wake up the next morning and go back to your day job. When you’re tired of working, surf the Internet and find some cool photos to go with your story. Now, choose a place to publish the thing (your blog? Amazon?). Whatever.

Ok, now publish it. Yes, I mean it. Yeah, hit the button. The one, right there. No, I’m not kidding! Ok, good. Well done. Now go get yourself another drink and toast to the downy nature of your cajones. Fall asleep in exhaustion; hoping you did the right thing.

Good morning! Welcome back. Now, go back to the beginning. Don’t forget: write, lie, edit, cry (repeat). You’re a writer.


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