Writing Life: Seven Tenets to Write by

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

Seventh Son of a Seventh Son

Seven Deadly sins

Sail the Seven Seas

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Seven Days of the Week, Seven Minute Abdomen Workout …. you get the idea. Seven is a big deal. He’s like a minor celebrity among prime numbers. So, while I sat down to think about some of the important intangibles about writing, about being a writer, I wasn’t surprised that seven pulled up in his stretch limousine. Seven arrived to help me present these tenets to you.

It is my great pleasure to present you with seven tenets of the writer’s life. These are by no means the only principles in the complex and daunting task of the wordsmith, but they are important. Some of you may have heard these principles 693,217 times. For some, it may be rather new. Whatever the case, it doesn’t hurt to hear them again, as you start out, or for the 693, 218th time.

Ok, enough blabbing, Joe..get on with it. Here they are, in no particular order, except for that in which they came to mind.

1. Dedication – Writers write. Is it that simple? No. But writing has to happen every day. Every day? That’s crazy! I don’t have time to write every day! Yes, you do. I never said you have to write a page, ten pages, a chapter. Even a paragraph, or a half a page, is something. It’s the act of engaging your creativity, your writer’s mind, your “muse” (to get all metaphysically artsy on you). If you have time to watch “Dancing With the Stars”, you have time to write. If you have time to sit on the couch, you have time to write. You can write while you eat lunch, on a napkin if you have to. You can write on the toilet, or at red lights. It doesn’t matter where, or how much, or even if it works out to be something brilliant and worth keeping. The fact is that you do it every day, as much as you can. Writers write.

2. Priority – With the exception of family (and maybe cheese, or bacon..maybe), writing has to become priority. This is difficult, I know. I love my X-box. Alas, it has left me for my children. I turn on my DVR and it looks at me and says “Why bother?” If you truly want to write, to produce stories, to get the words on paper, you have to make writing your priority. So, turn off “Dancing With the Stars” (man, why does he keeping hammering on that show? Because I can’t dance, that’s why..now stop laughing at me), stop making excuses and make time to write.

3. Distractions – Ah, the bane of my production. It comes in the form of Twitter, Facebook, emails, texts, and phone calls. The endless loop of Twitter conversations assail me a Tweetdeck nudges and prompts me like a neglected child. I love it. I love my Tweeps, but I’ve found that I have to turn off Twitter when I am working, or I simply don’t work, I Tweet. I’ve forced myself to stop checking my email every 73 seconds and I hide my phone when I sit down to write. In other words, dedicate the time to writing and don’t set yourself up for distraction. Minimize the chances that you will get sidetracked.

4. Effective Time Management – When you carve out that niche to write, devoid of distractions, it is important that you make the most of it. Now, I am not here to say that writers’ block does or does not exist, but I will acknowledge that there are sticking points. There are times when you can’t keep going with that linear flow. It’s like there is a fallen log in the stream, blocking your way. Ok….don’t sink the raft. Move it downstream. Start on a different scene. Even if you don’t know exactly where you are going, jump in and paddle, you might be surprised. And if it doesn’t take you where you wanted to go, you got some writing exercise. Maybe you’ll be able to pull one sentence, a paragraph, some dialogue, or character background from it. However, it might spark new scenes or ideas. It might move you past that log. If a line or a name is holding you up, leave a blank, or a bunch of XXXXXXXX [stuck here –  need name] and come back to it. Or, interview your character. Write about a walk through the town that is pivotal to your story. Do something in and around the work and you will be surprised at how it rewards you.

5. Full Time Gig – Writing, serious writing, is full-time. Hold on, hold on..I don’t mean quit your day job and try to make it writing. We all hope that will happen, but it’s pretty damn hard, even for some of the better wordsmiths. What I mean is that the story, the craft, the words have to be in the back of your mind all the time. Think about your work in progress while you are eating lunch. Plot out the next scene while you lay down to sleep. Keep a notebook and jot down dialogue you hear, names that strike you as interesting, conflict you observe, places you visit. Open your writer’s mind to the world around you and translate that into your work. Observe and record, observe and record. Keep your writer’s mind working, always sharp.

6. Enthusiasm – It’s addicting. Be excited. This isn’t torture (even though it may seem like it at times, like at 3:12 a.m. when you’ve rewritten the end of the scene seven times), this is MAGIC. That’s right, magic. We’re like wizards, turning our imagination into the world’s entertainment. People will pay to read your stories. So be excited about what you do and you’ll find that the people around you will be excited to see what you have going on. It may or may not help to just walk around grinning like a crazy person and laughing for no reason. Not sure, just saying…

7. Focus – The mere fact that I am writing this makes me the biggest hypocrite in the entire universe. But, to be fair, I am getting better. I’m still learning from my own seven principles. The point is: work on one project at a time. This way you are more likely to finish it and then you can move on to the next idea. My head is like a cavern full of bats all fluttering around and banging into each other. Every bat is an idea or a project. I have no shortage of ideas, I just have a hard time holding onto one without another one getting in the way. I am getting better though. I just make detailed notes and I shelve the idea, reminding myself that next great idea has to wait its turn until I am finished with the project at hand. It’s like I have creative A.D.D…but it is curable. It just takes focus. Otherwise you’ll have 82 unfinished projects and never get anywhere.

So, there you have it. I am by no means an expert. I’m just a guy putting words on paper, sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph, and dancing to same strange tune that calls us to us to be writers. It’s no easy task to construct these literary structures, to build order out of prose, to paint pictures on paper that come to life in the mind of the reader. It is hard work and none of us are going it alone, even when it is you, by yourself, at the keyboard in the small hours…there are kindred spirits sharing the same experience. Hopefully these seven little principles offer some insight, encouragement, or a refreshing reminder to you, my fellow writer.

Happy writing!


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