Guest Contributor: Nikhil Mahadea at Intelligentcitizen.ca
We have this idea that we need to be in the mood, wait for passion or genius to be writing. This is a myth.
Writing is a habit. It’s nothing more than unglamorous, disciplined labor. It’s about sitting at your desk and working. That’s how it gets done. The only variable a writer has control over is their discipline. To write everyday is the discipline of a writer. Once I knew this, I knew that all I needed to do was sit and write. Yet amateurs rarely practice.
In the following paragraphs, we’ll look at how athletes and executives work, how much time you should spend on writing and why you shouldn’t work from pure willpower.
Athletes and Executives
We never question the feasibility of athletes practicing long hours for one game. They don’t wait around for inspiration. And they don’t say, “Oh, I ran yesterday. I’m limber. I won’t stretch today.” Each day they warm up and stretch whether they want to or not. Eventually, they’re able to cut through the resistance.
Athletes schedule time to practice. Business people schedule meetings. And, writers schedule time to write. It’s the law of writers. It’s key.
Writing One hour a day
John Updike said, “Reserve an hour a day to write.” An hour a day is honorable. After my morning routine, I write for one hour every day. I face my demons right from the start. I do this so that I’m always processing my writing even when I’m not actually writing.
Just as if I don’t read every day, if I don’t write every day, I grow uneasy. Working constantly keeps what you have learned in prime condition. As soon as I skip a day, it’s much harder to write again. I lose the momentum. As Jascha Heifetz said, “If I go one day without practicing I can tell. If I go two days without practicing the public can tell.”
My years of writing, just like working out, have taught me to just show up. Ray Bradbury wrote more than 100 stories in 40 years.
He said, “A few words an hour, a few etched paragraphs per day and—voilà! we are the Creator! Or better still, Joyce, Kafka, Sartre!”
“I wrote a thousand words a day. For ten years I wrote at least one short story a week. Ten years of doing everything wrong suddenly became the right idea. At the end of an hour, the story was finished, the hair on the back of my neck was standing up, and I was in tears. All during my early twenties I had the following schedule. Here’s what I do: On Monday morning I write the first draft of a new story. Then on Tuesday I do a second draft. On Wednesday a third and on Thursday a fourth draft, followed by my fifth draft on Friday. Lastly, on Saturday at noon I mail out the sixth and final draft to New York. Sunday? I thought about all the wild ideas scrambling for my attention, waiting under the attic lid, confident at last that…I would soon let them out…
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Experience. Labor. These are the twin sides of the coin which when spun is neither experience nor labor, but the moment of revelation. The coin, by optical illusion, becomes a round, bright, whirling globe of life.
Don’t work from grim
Don’t force your writing. In addition, don’t work from dry willpower but from generosity. You can’t beat, pummel, or thrash an idea into existence. Some writing will come easily. Some simply don’t want to be born yet. And some we’re going have to work hard for. These are, in all honesty, my best work.
You will find that you’ll take an attempt at a subject, but it won’t sound satisfactory. Bright moments are rare. I don’t leap from bright moment to bright moment. But, they happen if I’m writing. How one manages himself between those bright moments is the measure of a true artist.
It may take weeks or even months to find the right voice, the right introduction, the right words, even the right type of writing. But then suddenly one day, 1,000 words pour out beautifully.
If you want to be a good writer, you have to write a lot. Make the commitment to quiet time. Ink, paper, an idle hour, that’s all we need.
Note: Thank you to guest writer Nikhil for his permission to post his article.
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