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ProAm Tips # 22 - When To Write

The best time to write, I’ve found, is the time when you DON’T want to write. When you feel like your brain is a lump of dehydrated dust, you have no ideas, and you just can’t FEEL the story any more. THAT’S the best time to sit down, hammer out a couple of words, and just freakin’ DO it.

You’re not always going to want to write. I don’t. But those times are fewer and fewer now, because when I feel like watching TV or reading a book, and I SHOULD be writing, I make myself sit down. When I don’t know where a story is going, I MAKE myself sit down. When I have absolutely NO idea what happens next, I MAKE MYSELF SIT DOWN.

The other thing about being a writer is the necessity to write WELL. This is important. Anyone can churn out a 100k piece of dog shit. Tom Clancy did it for years. But if you’re got an ounce of pride, you want to do it well.

That, kids, is the secret to beating that black.

If you’ve got integrity, if you’ve got pride, and above all, if you LOVE where your story is SUPPOSED to go when you’re done, you won’t be happy churning out ‘the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.’ You won’t be happy having your characters sit robotically and spew nonsense. You’ll FORCE yourself to write well, because at the end of the day, the story is what matters. I would NEVER just write to write. I want what I write to have merit, to have depth, and above all, to have integrity. You’ll find yourself hitting the keys in a ‘I don’t really wanna do this’ kind of way, but the first clunker word you write will make you wince, delete, and rewrite it. You’ll become interested in making it the BEST clunker sentence you can. And then you’ll realize it’s a terrible sentence crafted really well. And since a terrible sentence doesn’t serve the story, you’ll rewrite THAT into a sentence that DOES craft the story. You’ll find yourself motivated to do it because by God if you’re going to do it, you’re going to do it WELL. When you KNOW what to write, you’re not engaged. When you KNOW what to write, you’re not thinking. You’re not solving. You’re not crafting. As Truman Capote said about Jack Kerouac’s writing, “That’s not writing, that’s typing.” And that’s why NOT wanting to write is the absolute BEST time to write.

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