I’m back, and this time I’ve brought a bag full of the bleeding obvious.
If you want to write, you’ve got to write (yeah, don’t groan, I said today was Bring A Bag Of The Bleeding Obvious To Work Day, didn’t I?). It’s as simple as that. If you want to be an actor, or a rock star, and you can’t get a part in a play, or an audition for a band, then there are mitigating circumstances for you not acting or rock-starring. Except for “I haven’t got a pen”, there are no excuses for not writing. And even without a pen, crayon, pencil, or lump of dried monkey poo, you can be thinking about stuff to write down later.
Writing - being a writer - is an ongoing, long-term, cumulative thing. It accretes like dust. It’s not something you do for a few hours one weekend, like kayaking or SingStar. It’s an ongoing lifestyle choice, something that is never far away, like a favourite sweater, or an annoying brother.
It’s up to you how much of a lifestyle choice it becomes. You decide where to place it on the bell curve that runs from idle pass-time through serious hobby to life-altering obsession. It’s a little like smoking, I suppose. You may smoke a couple of cigarettes at a party once in a while, or you might be a forty-a-day guy: either way, you’re still a smoker, dude.
The point is, you’ve got to be doing it to be it. You’ve got to write. In the early stages of what, if you’re lucky (and I use the word advisedly), will be a process that eventually comes to dominate your life like a giant and petulantly demanding Writing God, you should write for yourself. You should write as often as you can. You should write for fun. You should write anything.
Just write. Get those writing joints shaken out. Build those writing muscles. Pump it! Get limber and flexible. Have a laugh. Hum the Rocky theme as you jog up the steps in Writerdelphia (note: metaphors in use).
You can write scraps and fragments, you can write a book, you can write short stories. It doesn’t really matter what it is. I’ve got a stack of folders and file cartons filled with stuff I spewed out as a teenager, and as a young man trying to get into the industry. Sometimes I can still fish a fragment out that's got some battery life left in it, but most of the stuff is beyond recycling. The folders and cartons simply represent the training montage from the movie of my career (note: there isn’t a movie of my career, obviously.)
Once you’ve got the habit of it, the habit of writing things down, and trying them out for size, and for the way they sound in your head when you read them back, you can start showing them to people. That will be the moment when people start saying stupid things to you that you don’t want to hear, which is a fun issue we’ll deal with next time.
For now, buy a pencil. Hey, why not buy a BOX of pencils!? Or, you know, a laptop. Or feed your monkey extra fibre and wait beside him with a hairdryer. Just get writing.
Visualise it this way: a poem or a song lyric is a 100 metres sprint; an article or feature is a 400 metres race; a short story is an 800 metres steeplechase; a novel is a marathon.
Would you try to run any of those things if you hadn’t been in training first?
Oh, and if this bag of the bleeding obvious has come as a disappointment (sorry, you were warned), let me throw in one Actual Solid Practical Tip, free and gratis, no purchase necessary. Buy a small notebook, one that pleases you to use and is small enough to carry in your pocket. Carry it in your pocket at all times. When you are not equipped with a pocket (I’m thinking, in bed, in the shower, dressed as Wonder Woman) strategically place the notebook near to your location (ie on the night stand, by the sink, in the glovebox of the invisible jet).
Write down any ideas you have. Any good names, or words, or notions. Any jokes you like, or stories, or whatever the hell else. Write down anything you think might be of use in your writing (suitably recycled, adjusted or customised, etc). Just collect stuff up for later use. If you don’t write ideas down when you think of them, YOU WILL FORGET THEM. Do not tell yourself you will be able to remember them later when you get home, because you will be lying to yourself, and no one likes a liar.
I’m only going to tell you that tip once.
Talk to you soon.