Monday, August 13, 2012

A Pirate without a Ship. Best piece of writing advice--ever.

Christopher Moore, who is probably best known as the author of Lamb, the Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal,  is one of those successful authors who is more than happy to give advice to beginners. In fact, the time or two I sought his advice by way of emails, he replied in the same day. He is both encouraging and no nonsense at the same time--something beginners in particular need.

A few years ago, whilst "hanging out" on Chris's public forums I ran across a discussion between Chris and another fledgling writer. The person was complaining about not having the focus to finish the pieces of work they were starting, about the distractions and the frustrations of having to eke out the time to write, and basically creating one excuse after another to avoid doing the thing they claimed that they loved best. Out of this discussion came some the most spot-on advice I've ever seen given to a floundering newbie by someone in the know. I took the time to copy and paste it to a document and have shared it more than once over the years.

It's been a while and this is one of those pieces that bears repeating. Because I plan to link to this on Facebook and have not just my kids checking in, but those of other people, I edited for language. Chris is nothing if not emphatic when speaking about the work of writing.

   If you're not writing, you're not a writer. You don't have any responsibility. No one cares whether you do it. It's much easier to feel better about not doing it than it is to do it. You can not be anything you want to be. Set your sights higher. Be a world champion marathoner who doesn't run, a pirate without a ship, a Conquistador who doesn't conquer. 

Now, either turn off your computer and write with a pen, or disconnect your computer from the internet, if you must write on a computer. Disconnect the wire completely. Can't do it? Go not conquer Mexico then. 

You're not procrastinating. You're ***** off. You're **** off on the internet, which is **** off that feels like doing something, but isn't. The internet and television are the enemies of writing. 

I've told you guys a dozen times about checking into a hotel in Big Sur to finish Lamb. I picked a hotel that had no phones in the rooms, and no televisions. Guess why? I'm not being any tougher on you than I am on myself. It never gets easy. Never. 

("But Author Guy, it's a lot easier when you know that you're going to get paid for it. Get published." Yeah? Ya think? You want to know that if you "procrastinate" that they'll take your house away? That make it easier?) 

Notebook. Pen. Go somewhere. Park. Cafe. Pancake House. Notebook too slow? Really? How much you get written on your computer today? 

And before anyone brings it up, no one feels your pain. No one gives a ****. Especially in Ohio. You may find a few kindred souls in a forum or at a writers' conference, but most normal people have never met a writer and they think the idea that anyone could actually become a writer is just complete balderdash. You'd be much less foreign to them if you told them that you wanted to be a turtle. At least they've seen a turtle. Your family, your coworkers, your friends: don't care, think you're nuts. Especially in Ohio. (Go ahead, ask me how I know this?) 

Notebook. Pen. Block of Time. 

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