Friday, January 11, 2013

Writing Is a Delightful Habit to Have

Now and then, I see a question posted in LinkedIn forums from someone wondering how often other writers write and how to make himself write. My first thought is how inexperienced the questioner must be. Writing is as fundamental as breathing for most writers, but do not infer that writing is as easy or natural as breathing.

Writing is labor, one that writers willingly, lovingly agree to perform. Our ideas demand form, and our minds require the written word to understand fully. Indeed, writing an idea often shows its angles, shadows, and shape to be quite different from the one we first glimpsed.

Some would say that writing is magical because of how we learn and perceive, because of how the words and characters take on a life of their own with the writer in the service of them. Others would say that writing is torture. We write, often in a vacuum, hungry to know if our ideas touch others, move them to act and feel and think. We struggle to find the right word, to make music in prose, to render the sounds of this world and all its residents so well that our readers hear what he's heard before. We want an entire novel to live in the immediate present, recreating an experience the reader never had or almost had or will have, with all senses engaged and open.

To accomplish these ends, writers must practice as runners must train, as speakers must stand before mirrors and rehearse, actors must do and do again what they will bring to life on stage, musicians must learn the scales and chords long before they make music, and doctors must complete residencies and internships. So my answer to anyone who wonders: writers must write every day, and they should set a word goal: 500 words, 1,000 or 1,500. Let the writing lead; in other words, worry less about what to write and simply write.

If you don't have an idea one day or two, go back and read the first year of this blog. It's full of writing challenges. In fact, I post a challenge every post. Use them. Use me.

Reading Challenge:

Listen to or read the Big Think Interview with Tim O'Brien, National Book Award winner and writing teacher. It's available at

Writing Challenge:

Write a 500-word answer to something offensive heard on TV. Or write a letter to POTUS, arguing for a change you believe must come to pass. Or write a letter to your beloved, telling him or her what inspires your love.

GUM (Grammar, Usage and Mechanics):

Don't worry about GUM as you write. There's plenty of time for that later.