To Writers Who Have Yet To Write

Lately, several people have told me they want to write. They want to take a class or something before they can actually begin. Bless their hearts.

“Don’t wait!” is my advice. I put off writing for decades because I thought you HAVE to outline before you write. Sure, if that floats your boat, go ahead. Outline.

When I threw that idea away is when I began to write.

Classes are great. Learning how to construct a plot or a succinct and powerful sentence is an accomplishment and you have to learn to do it at some point. Same with comma placement and when to use a semicolon. You’re going need to use all those skills eventually. And a bunch more you thought you had or never even heard of.

But what classes can’t help you get over is your fear of putting yourself on the page. There is an inner barrier to cross. It pops up when you think you want to be writing and instead go do some other task that needs or doesn’t need to be done right at this minute. When you finally sit and stare at a blank page and the thoughts tumble in your head, but your fingers on the keys or holding the pen freeze. The words don’t flow like a dream, like you desperately need them to.

Your fear is in the way.

Fear of feeling feelings you’d rather forget.

Fear of writing shit.

Fear you can’t say things eloquently.

Fear your thoughts won’t form into coherent statements.

Fear someone else will read what you wrote and won’t get it. Or even worse, laugh.

Even fear you might actually be good at it.

It’s time to get over yourself. As a writer, you can’t take yourself too seriously. On the other hand, you have to take yourself seriously.

I took a fiction writing class in college. I’m not sure I learned anything from the actual class. But I did learn about that barrier that kept me from the world I was trying to create. I was afraid to live in that world. Maybe I was afraid of what I would find or that I would love it so much I wouldn’t want to leave it. (Yeah, I’ve been to both those places since I started writing. Several times.) I never got very far with the story and it was a good 40 years before I attempted to write anything again.

So, if you have the desire to write but haven’t been able to bet started, here’s my advice: Put your ass in a chair, activate the implement of your choice and put down words.

Goo goo gaa gaa. It might come out as baby talk. When you were a baby, you learned speech by making noise with your mouth. You listened to the noises other humans made. You learned to control the sounds and mimic what you heard. You learned the sounds had meanings and using them had consequences like getting what you wanted. Then you learned how to string the sounds together to express your ideas. And a few years later you learned the symbols to put the sounds on paper.

And here you are. You found your voice as a baby by using it. You’ll find your voice as a writer by writing.

Don’t wait. Sure, take a class. Wash your windows and iron your sheets.

Just write something first.


The Muse, The Zone, vs. #buttinchair

Many thanks to my online writing friends (which the vast majority of my writing friends are) for the topics for the NaNoWriMo series.


museThis week, a few of my writing buds sad they haven’t found “the zone,” or that their muse wasn’t showing up when they tried to write and they got nothing done on their NaNo novel.

What creative person hasn’t been there? Creativity is the most fun when every part of me is singing along to the same song–in 4 part harmony, even. I see the path ahead leading to a place I’ve never been before. If writing, I know where the scene will go, the theme, the end, the deep thoughts of the characters, the witty repartee, the biting sarcasm. If drawing, I see the lines on the paper before I make them, my mind sees the entire picture before my hand is laying out before it is complete. If singing, my voice has the next notes ready and my musically challenged brain doesn’t have to search for it as the sound leaves my throat. (This only happens in the car though. Alone.)

But what if your muse takes the day off of to climb Mt. Everest? Or your zone isn’t about writing, but thinking about how you maybe should go back to Facebook and delete that post about your dumb co-worker, although you never used her name. Or even that you should get up and go clean out the cat box.


A muse is a romantic notion and usually involves an unreliable fictitious entity.

Since NaNo is all about the word count, you don’t have time for your muse to come off Everest (if she ever does–that hill is littered with bodies, much like peaceful small towns where TV sheriffs and mystery writers live). You can’t wait for your zone to move to your writing place. You have to put down words. Dec. 1 waits for no one, my friends.

It’s time for #buttinchair.

Sit. Turn off the internet. Block out sound. Close the door. Start typing.

Don’t wait for the perfect sentence. Don’t search around the vocabulary junk drawer for just the right word.

Just write. #buttinchair #amwriting

“She walked into the room. It was dark. She didn’t like dark rooms because when she was small her brother scared her in one so bad she pees her pants and he joked about it until the zombies got him.”1-siyWsgezvPaCuBmhNgLoqA

There, 40 words. Pretend they’re related to your story. Do that again and again and again and pretty soon you have 250 words. When I get stuck, I make myself write 250 words about what could happen next in my story. By the time I get to 250, an idea has usually sparked. Maybe the light shines on my Zone and my Muse is ready to talk to me again. Maybe not. Maybe I’ll keep the words in revisions, maybe not. But they’re words. They count. And most importantly, I forged ahead and made progress.

Sometimes, lots of times, really, writing is like your job. You don’t feel like flipping that damn burger, but you do. You don’t feel like cutting into that skull to relieve intracranial pressure, but you do. You don’t feel like changing yet another wet diaper. But you do. Some hungry person gets their food, some patient’s headache gets better, and your baby won’t get diaper rash. It wasn’t fun, but it was done. Progress was made.

The Muse, the Zone, are romantic ideas, and when they show up, they’re fun to be with. But they’re fickle and you can’t depend on them to write your novel.


So, here I am, #buttinchair, writing words. No, blog posts don’t count for NaNo. While I’m writing, maybe my muse for mopping the kitchen floor will show up. He’s been quite elusive this year and I can’t mop the floor without him.