I’ve beaten this drum many times before, I know. And I’m sure you’re getting tired of me saying it, too. But the best piece of writing advice that I have ever found is contained in one word: write. If you want to expand it to two words, it would be: just write. Either way, it means sitting down and actually getting words on your screen or paper or wherever you’re writing them. A recent blog post from Mr. Chuck Wendig, from whom I seem to be drawing a lot of inspiration these days, reminded me of this principle and I thought he had some excellent things to say on the matter.
Wendig begins with a quote from J. Robert Lennon, a writing teacher, who doesn’t seem to like the piece of advice that consists of “just write.” Essentially, Lennon objects to this piece of advice because it does not contain any wisdom on how to do the writing and centers on the assumed laziness of whomever is the recipient of this advice. Wendig acknowledges that the advice does not elaborate as much as it should, but it’s a bit of common sense that just needs to be said sometimes.
“[Writing],” says Wendig. “[Is] imaginary. It’s intellectual. It’s ephemeral, if we let it be. It’s fairy dross and pegasus dreams, man. The only way to take what is imaginary and make it a reality is to put your ass in the chair and write.” And he’s completely write about this. Think about it. Most of the planning that goes into writing a piece can be described as detailed daydreaming. You’re imagining what will happen to your characters, how they will react, and the world that they will inhabit. This is all taking place in your own headspace before you even begin to type. And, for most writers, this is happening all the time. We are constantly mining the world around us for possible ideas and are filing things away to be used at a later date. If this kind of cerebral work is taking place all the time, the concrete work must take precedent at some point. At some point, you must “put your ass in the chair and write.”
I really like what Wendig is saying here, so I’ll leave you with some final words from the man himself.
Nobody’s saying you have to write thousands of words per day. You write what you can write. But that verb is still in place: write. Whether you write ten words or ten-thousand, they still involve you taking off your pants, setting your coffee onto its coaster, petting your spirit animal, then sitting your ass into the chair and squeezing words from your fingertips until you collapse, unable to do any more. It doesn’t matter if it’s good. Not now. It only matters that it’s done.
Check out the full post here and then sit your ass down and do the writing you’ve been meaning to do.
— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan