Advice on Writing, Volume 4

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

For me, trying to write every day is a bit like trying to run everyday.

Some days, when I lace up my shoes and go for a run I naturally have an energized stride. I zip along in cruise control, getting lost in the music and the scenery and my thoughts. Before I know it, one, then two, then three miles are behind me! I did it. And all at a respectable pace (for me).

(Photo from my instagram)
Most days are not like that.

Most days, running feels a bit more step by step. With every stride, I'm constantly reminding myself, "pick your knees up higher, keep breathing, keep going." With every ten steps, I'm wondering how far I've gone.....It's only been a half a mile?! Step. I've been running forever. Step, step. Will I ever be done running? Step. Can I actually survive three miles? Step, step. What's the point of running anyway? Step.

Writing is like this for me, as well.

Some days, it seems I'm a well of ideas, and the words flow out of me. The blank page beckons my thoughts, my sentences, my paragraphs, my entire chapters. I was born to get the words onto the page. The very words, surely, have been dormant inside of me for years, and are now eager to get out, to form insightful sentences and compelling stories. Nothing could be more natural.

Most days are not like that.

Most days, writing feels a bit more word by word, sentence by sentence. It is unduly difficult to extract each word from my brain and then transcribe it to the page. It's a bit like writing calligraphy with my left hand. In Arabic.

The path between my head and my typing hands seems impossibly long. And are the words any good, anyway? Sentence. Where am I going with this? Sentence. I'll probably just have to scrap this whole chapter. Sentence. Or maybe this whole book. Sentence. I'm hungry. Sentence. Maybe I should start job searching online. Sentence. But who would ever hire me anyway? Sentence.

So, I suppose my amateur unsolicited advice is this: Get through the bad days. Better yet, embrace them. Despite how painful they can be, they are the very days that will lead you to the good ones. Maybe you have to write eight terrible paragraphs to lead you to one beautiful sentence. Maybe you have to write an entire bad book to lead you to an okay one. Whatever you do, don't stop.

And, when you can't possibly write another word, when you are absolutely certain you will never again be able to form a coherent sentence on the page—go for a run. Seriously.

p.s. The book all aspiring writers should read.
p.p.s. Advice on writing, volumes one, two, and three.

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