The Writing You Do

Diane Sherlock is back again with some more advise for my readers. Hope you’re enjoying her posts as much as I am!

the writing you do

see how industrious I look?

…as opposed to the writing you don’t. You will be commended on the writing you do, not the writing you intend to do. I knew a woman who claimed to be a writer because it was all inside her head. She never put it down on paper. Sorry, not a writer. A writer writes. Do you write for yourself or an audience? Why only write for yourself? True, it can help you attain clarity, getting your thoughts down on paper. But if you consider yourself a novelist or short story writer, definitionally you need to be writing, um… novels and short stories. Doesn’t matter what you intend to do. No one can see that.

Emerson wrote in his 1841 journal, “Yet if I am born to write a few good sentences or verses, those shall endure and my disgraces utterly perish out of memory.”

A friend died last week. He should have been around much longer, but sometimes that’s the way things go. Life is short, live big. Get the novel done because there are no guarantees as to how much time you have left to work. Say you are 38 and live to, oh, 75 (beating the world average by 8 years). 37 summers. You can adjust the math accordingly. Now, if you write a novel a year, that’s an impressive output, but most of us don’t do that and if we do, those books will probably not last, certainly not all of them. If you’re aspiring to the level of a Steinbeck, Twain, Faulkner, Dostoevsky (go big!), think about how many books they are remembered for – it’s just a few, 2 or 3. Say you write a book every 3 or 4 years = 10 books to write. If you are talented and very lucky, some will get published and one or two may last more than a generation. Suddenly seem more serious? Like your options are limited? Make the shift in your thinking that you have all the time in the world (you don’t) and get to work! Yes, now.

2 Comments on The Writing You Do

  1. A friend of mine was murdered in December last year. She was only eighteen years old and never got to live her life. That made me think about this a lot.
    If you’re a writer, then go write. Don’t wait. Look for inspiration in everything, and when you can’t seem to get those words out, then go back and edit what you’ve already written. A well-edited piece can be the difference between having a movie based off your work and a letter of rejection from the publisher. I’m not kidding.
    If an idea suddenly strikes you, don’t wait. Write it down and get it out there. Make it grow. Think of it this way: There is a big, wide world of ideas for you to write with. But only you can see them the way they appear, unless you write them down the way you want others to see.
    Well, what are you waiting for? Go write!

  2. Thanks for the reminder that our precious time here is limited. I better get crackin’ on my novel. I just hit 39 this year, so your scenario hit me right between the eyes. Sheesh…I’ve wasted so much time on futile endeavors.

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