They say that “everything happens for a reason.” Perhaps that is true, but in my experience many things happen for no reason at all – they just happen. Or at least they happen through forces we never see. The “reasons” for outcomes are sometimes just unknown and we must operate on faith – be it in a God, a goddess, science or yourself. What I am certain of, however is that Nothing happens for a reason. And by that I mean that when nothing happens in our lives it is always the result of our inactions. When nothing happens it is because we have done nothing to make it happen. I have great faith (although not of the modern religion kind) and here is one of my favorite stories:
One day a flood comes. A man of great faith climbs upon the roof of his house to escape the rising water. He knows that God will save him. Before the water rises too high a large truck pulls up and the driver yells to man – “Sir, come down and get in the truck and I’ll take you to safety.” “No,” responds the Man. “I have faith. God will save me.” And the water continues to rise. Later a boat arrives and the driver yells to the man – “Quick Sir, get in the boat and I’ll take you to safety.” “No,” the Man responds again. “I have faith. God will save me.” A few hours later the water is up to the Man’s waist. A helicopter arrives and the pilot yells to the man – “Sir get in and I will fly you to safety.” “No,” the Man responds. “I have faith. God will save me.” Moments later the water covers the Man and he drowns. As he enters the gates of the after life, he is very upset. He seeks out God and demands, “My Lord I don’t understand. All my life I was a dedicated man of faith. I was a believer. Why did you not save me?” God just sighs and places his hand on the man’s shoulder. “My son,” he says, “ I sent you a truck, a boat, and a helicopter – what more would you have had me do?”
Writer is not a noun – it is a verb.
The biggest problem writers face is not story ideas, not writers block, certainly not a lack of dreams – the biggest obstacle is commitment.
If you’re going to really write that novel. If you truly want to Right that Novel so that you can write it, then you will have to decide to do it. It has to be a priority in your life. There are only two things in our lives that ever rise to that level of Priority – the things we must do and the things we love.
Do you remember that time you fell in love? I’m not talking about the love that comes later on. The one where we kiss our significant other and say “Love ya, see ya tonight.” I mean the passion part of the love cycle. When most, if not all our thoughts are about that person. About seeing them. Being with them. Talking with them. Exploring them (hey get your head out of the gutter, I meant getting to know their mind LOL). That time when we wouldn’t think about putting on those comfy clothes and skipping a shower. That my friend was a priority. You could move your entire calendar for those moments. You could tell any friend, “Oh geez, sorry not tonight I have plans.” You could forget about those television shows you wanted to watch and even sleep no longer required an entire night. You were energized, motivated and happy. The only thing that could possibly compete with it was your big responsibilities – like going to work, or studying for an exam. Hell some of us even moved across the country or moved others across the country for that love – something we wouldn’t even consider doing for a job.
Is writing that kind of love? Will you move a few things on your calendar for it? Do you often think about it during the day while you are at work? Are you willing to lose a few hours of sleep to court that mistress? If writing isn’t that kind of passion, there is nothing I can say that will help you finish your novel. Like I said – Writer is a verb. Your words, your story, they must be like falling in love. Then it will be that kind of priority like those first six months of a new relationship – you will talk for hours into the night seemingly never running out of things to say.
So maybe you have the desire to find that story, but it still eludes you. Perhaps you want to be the verb, but you’re just stuck in a bad relationship with your story. Maybe you haven’t found the passion or you’ve lost the passion. What to do, what to do?
1. Just write – whether it is good or bad, whether you feel like it or not, just sit down and write. Foster that relationship. Find that story. Write little paragraphs like you’re trolling Match dot com for a date.
2. Don’t be afraid to date – maybe the story you’re writing, isn’t the one you want to write. Since you CAN write a novel in six months, don’t be afraid to start new.
3. Keep a notebook handy (I know you have hundreds of them) – write down ideas, sentences, quotes, or descriptions whenever they come to mind. I use the Notes App on my smart phone. I wrote this “24 feet of dance floor to reach the door. Simple enough except for the hordes of hungry infected.” I wrote that line New Year’s Eve, in a dance club, about six vodkas into the celebration. Later it became a part of a series of vignettes I’m writing called “The Living and the Dead.”
4. Guard that writing time – make it as important as dinner or drinks with a friend or your favorite television show.
5. Don’t focus on word count – I hate that write a page a day advice – focus on a relationship with the story. On enjoying it. Work on story scenes and dialog scenes not on word count. My third novel has all kinds of parts written – beginning, middle, near end. I’ll fit them together later, right now I’m just having fun.
6. When you can’t write your story, spend time “thinking” about your story (I write many chapters in my head). The more time you spend with your story the easier it will be to transfer from your head to the page.
7. Don’t get distracted – you can’t date two people at a time with any long-term success. The same is true for writing. If you have to choose between your book and your blog – go with your book. I know writing is lonely. We want people to talk to about it, so we join clubs, groups and contests. Those things become priorities and loves of their own – and they kill our books. If you want to talk about your book – your book – your story – send me an email. I’ll talk about it with you…and tell you when you need to get back to it LOL.
Beyond the love, the major reason people do “anything” is out of habit (about 40% of our daily activities). You may have a writing habit or you may have developed a habit of “not writing.” Habit programs operate in the oldest part of our brain. That brain area is simple in its function, like a good dog it is easily trained to do new tricks. It also reverts back to the old programs if we do not build stronger ones on top of the old. In other words, a new habit can be sabotaged by the old habits. Which is why people who struggle with weight loss and smoking cessation so often fall back to the their old ways. The more you do something like write, the more likely that will become your dominant response. To Right your Novel you need to get out of the routine of “wanting” to be a writer and into the routine of “writing.” By the way, the chemicals released during “love” keep us going until being with that person becomes the thing that will make it last – routine.
The good news is that most habits and routines are based on environmental cues. Like going to the movies and getting popcorn even when you aren’t hungry. To improve and strengthen your writing habit is as easy as developing new cues. These cues become things in your surroundings that trigger your routine to write and make the writing automatic. Let’s look at how that all works in…
Part IV: An Object in Motion