Thursday, August 06, 2009

The problem of writing 'when the spirit moves you'

For writers trying to find the energy to write today (like, for example, me) I'm passing along this helpful pep-talk from Randy Ingermanson's The Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine (reprinted with permission):
Organizing: Writing When the Spirit Moves You

"I write when the spirit moves me," William Faulkner
once said. "And the spirit moves me every day."

What about you? When do you write? What do you do on
the days when you just don't feel like writing? Do you
write anyway, or do you prefer to do your writing only
on days when you know you'll be good?

I've heard from a lot of writers on this, and the
strong impression I've gotten is that most writers,
most days, don't feel like writing. That's as true of
professional novelists as it is of the newest novices.

In fact, it may be more true for the pros. For a novice
writer, writing is a new and exciting hobby -- a way to
have fun during time stolen from boring Real Life.
Whereas writing is a professional writer's job, every
day, every week, every year.

What makes the professional novelist a professional is
the fact that most professionals, most days, write
their word count. It doesn't matter whether they feel
like it or not. They sit in the chair and type their

Doesn't sound very sexy, does it? Well . . . it isn't.
Writing fiction is a job. You put in the work. Then you
get paid. If you don't put in the work, you don't get

If that was all there was to it, then of course we'd
all quit this game and go into something more fun and
less risky, such as lion dentistry.

But the fact is that writing fiction is fun. When
you're fully into the flow and the story is pulsing out
of your fingers onto the page, then you barely notice
time whizzing by. That's fun. When the spirit is truly
moving you, it feels like you're flying.

What isn't fun for me is getting ready to write.
Sitting down at the computer isn't fun. Opening up my
word processor isn't fun. Staring at the blank screen
for the first couple of minutes isn't fun. The fun
starts after the first few minutes, when the screen
isn't blank any longer and the voices in my head start

Here are three things you can do to get past those
first few horrible minutes when writing isn't fun:

* Daydream about what you're going to write before it's
time to write. Do this when you're supposed to be doing
something else. If you have a day job (most writers do,
even most professional novelists), use any down time to
daydream about your story. Some jobs have more down
time than others, but most have at least a few minutes
during the course of the day. Spend that time wishing
you were writing your novel. When you finally get a
chance to write, you'll be primed for it.

* Get a running start by editing what you wrote
yesterday. It's hard to start typing on a blank screen,
but if you quickly read through what you wrote last
time and fix any small glitches, after a few pages your
head will be fully in the game and you'll be itching to
go. DON'T get so caught up in yesterday's work that you
have no time for today's. Save the real editing for
later. Just use this editing time to get the juices

* Make sure you're using the creative style that's
right for you. Last month, I talked in this e-zine
about various options you have for creating your first
draft. Some writers work best by writing "seat of the
pants." Others need to take an "edit as you go"
strategy. Others prefer to map out the high level part
of the story in advance, leaving the details to emerge
in the first draft (using a tool like my Snowflake
Method to guide them). Other writers do best when
they've worked out a full, detailed outline up front.
You are who you are. Use whatever creative style is
best geared for your particular brain.

Writers love being creative. I like to think that being
creative is what makes us human, or keeps us human, or
helps us to fake being human. Whatever. We like being
moved by that pesky spirit.

The trick is to regularly show up in a place where the
spirit can move you. Then hang around long enough for
the spirit to get rolling.

What happens after that is the magic of writing.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 16,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

Related links:
Endorse this!
For Writers Only: Mad Genius Writer
Three queens of crime
Write fast, edit slow
Crazy enough to write
The humiliation of revisions
Planning Ahead
"What got you started writing?"
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