*WARNING... what you are about to read is what I think all new, aspiring writers need to be told about what it takes to be a writer. It's loaded with nothing but straight forward shit... and it ain't pretty. So, if a little vulgarity isn't quite your speed, steer away and go find a feel-good blog about writing filled with puppies and kitty cats and continue your struggle to get those words out and write that book.
Now, let me make something very clear - I'm no New York Times Best Seller, but I've been writing for about 30 years. I've written about a dozen screenplays (both feature and short) and probably around 100 short stories over those 30 years - so, yes, I'm like you: I'm a writer.
I've only recently published 2 books (update: I have 3 now) - but I did it. Have you? If not, we're gonna explore why and what it's gonna take to get your words out of that lump on your shoulders and onto the printed page. If you have written a book or two, congrats, but maybe you just need to be entertained by what I've written here. Maybe you'll find some humor, truth, or parallels to your own writing experiences.
And I'm not gonna fill you with inspirational words of encouragement dipped in rich chocolate and topped with cherries. Because, let's be honest, that's what every book that I've read about writing is filled with and it doesn't do anything for me, and I'm figuring that it probably hasn't done anything for some of you - that's why you haven't written a single damned word or finished that book.
You don't need encouragement or inspiration... you already have that! You get that crap from your friends and loved ones who pat you on the back and tell you "You can do it, Johnny! We believe in you.”. Well, that’s all fine and dandy and yummy like sugar blossoms, but at the end of the day, you’re the bozo sitting in a dark room staring at a blank page - alone with your thoughts while your brain decides whether or not to give into Creative A.D.D. and just start thinking about stupid shit that has nothing to do with writing your first words.
Nah… you don’t need encouragement or inspiration...
WHAT YOU NEED IS MOTIVATION!!!
When a Marine Drill Instructor wants his out-of-shape recruits to climb that wall on the obstacle course or finish the last 5 miles of a 15 mile hike with backpacks loaded with Marine stuff, he doesn't sit them down to have a Dr. Phil-style heart to heart about what it's gonna take to get the job done...
HE GETS IN THEIR DAMNED FACES AND TELLS THEM WHY THEY'RE A BUNCH OF LOWLIFE, MAGGOT FAILURES!!!
Just sit through the first act of Full Metal Jacket and watch the incomparable R. Lee Ermey whip those turds into shape. (Of course, what happens to him, eventually, isn’t exactly what I’m going for here, so don’t any of you get the idea to show up in my bathroom in your skivvies with an M14.)
So, let's just dive right in. Shall we?
CHAPTER 1 – WHAT TIME IS IT?
If you're reading this, then there is something you're NOT doing... do you know what that is? Right… you’re not writing!
Maybe you're stuck on an element of your story and you’re suffering from writer's block. That's the shit that almost kept me from finishing one of my best screenplays. Took me the better half of a year just to get through that block and finish the script!!!
Sometimes, I wanted to just quit, but the story wouldn't let me. It was like some crazy ex-girlfriend nagging me, calling me constantly, texting me like a mad woman, banging on my door and screaming to come inside...
"YOU CAN'T QUIT ME, YOU SON OF A BITCH, I OWN YOU!!!" And it's true, the story you're writing will own your ass until the last page. No rest, no pee breaks - nothing but the clickety-clickety-click of your fingers on the keyboard. Or the scribbly-scrabbly of pen on paper. (Whatever!) This is something we'll explore a little more in another chapter.
Maybe you're staring at that 1st word of that 1st page and don't know where the hell to go from "The". Boy, that really sucks, too. There's nothing worse than having a story to tell but not knowing where to begin, or even how. You have the idea, the plot is probably somewhat vague, but you sit, poised over the keyboard like a vulture, as if those beautiful words are gonna just spew forth and magic will ensue. Bullshit! Those words aren't gonna go anywhere until you put them there. This happens to me, too. So, don't worry, you're not alone. We'll explore this concept in a later chapter, too.
But, for now, let’s talk about TIME MANAGEMENT –
Maybe you're doing what I usually do... surfing the damned internet for dumb shit or just because it’s there and your brain decided it was time for some Creative A.D.D.!
There is a ton of garbage that can distract an undisciplined writer from getting to the task at hand and turning out awesome page after page. Such as checking out the latest bullshit story that passes for "news" on Yahoo or scrolling through the endless supply of Tweets and "favoriting" and "retweeting" them or, and this is the worse, reading a shitload of pointless posts from your usual gang of Facebook idiots and liking all of those stupid, little cartoon pics they post! Yes, yes… I admit I do it, too, which is why that subject pisses me off.
The internet is this writer's Kryptonite!!!
Whatever it is that's keeping you from writing... stop it! You should be writing, not reading. You should be climbing your lazy ass over that wall, you maggot!!!
Now, should you be tickling the keyboard endlessly every time you sit at the computer? No. But if you're gonna take it seriously, you need to treat your writing like a job. A part time job. 2-3 hours a day is a good average.
You're probably thinking "2-3 hours? My life is too busy, Clive. Who has THAT kind of time?” YOU DO!!! And don't you dare bullshit yourself into thinking that you don't.
Some people spend that much time in the gym, building their bodies, and they come out looking like gods and goddesses. And what do most people do when they get a look at these gym rats? They oggle and drool and think "Wow, I want a bod like that".
The same amount of time and effort should go into your writing. That keyboard and that manuscript or screenplay should be your gym if you're ever gonna flex your muscles as a successful writer. Otherwise, get off the damned machine and go about your daily drudgery so you can spend your rocking years pissing and moaning in your diapers about how you could have been a great writer... you just didn't want to find the time.
What do you do during the course of your day that's keeping you from writing? Let me give you a scenario and you can determine whether or not this is you (or something like you) -
- The alarm wakes you up in the morning.
- You get dressed, get the kids ready for school, eat something.
- Drop the kids off at school and head to work.
- You take a break mid-morning. Maybe it’s a smoke break.
- Go back to work.
- Go to lunch.
- Go back to work.
- Another break mid-afternoon.
- Quittin' time; you go home.
- Make dinner and eat before heading to...
- Kid's Karate class.
- You go home, finally, for the rest of the evening.
- Get the kiddies into the baths or showers.
- Tuck the kiddies into bed.
- You watch your DVR'd episode of American Idiol, The Voice, The X Factor or some other stupid TV show that showcases others following their dreams and does absolutely NOTHING to help further your own ambitions (hint, hint – here’s part of your problem).
- Take a long, hot shower - ahhhh... your time to RELAX!!!
- Maybe grab a quickie with the significant other.
- Then, lights out!
Umm... okay, so where's your writing time? "Oh, I'll get to it tomorrow and I have a great idea for a story. That computer isn't going anywhere."
REALLY? HEY, CAPTAIN PROCRASTINATION!!! That book ain't gonna write itself, you know! What the hell's wrong with you?
Let me tell you about saving that great idea ‘til tomorrow... I HAVE FORGOTTEN MORE STORY IDEAS FOR TOMORROW THAN I HAVE EVER REMEMBERED AND COULD ACTUALLY WRITE DOWN TODAY!!!!
It makes me sick when someone says they just don't have time. Time for what?
So, let's take another look at the scenario I gave you above. What the hell did you do with your time today?! The problem isn't lack of time. We know this because:
- You found time to suck on a couple of fucking cigarettes on both of your 15 minute breaks at work! (that's 30 minutes)
- You found time to stuff your face for 30 minutes with fish tacos, or whatever the hell it is you eat, while you gossip about meaningless shit during your lunch break with your co-workers! (another 30 minutes)
- Found time to cook dinner, half of that time which you spent preparing - the other half is spent letting the heat from the damned stove actually cook the food for you! (probably another 20-30 minutes depending on what you're cooking)
- You found time to sit at little Billy's Karate class for an hour and watch him do the same damned kicks and punches he does every time you take him there while his teacher drones on and on about SELF DISCIPLINE - something you need to apply to your life as a writer!!! (60 minutes)
- If your kids are old enough, they can take their own baths or showers. (probably another 20-30 minutes or so while they clean up and get ready for bed on their own)
- You wasted plenty of time watching that stupid TV show that you DVR'd and could have watched some other time. (60-120 minutes)
- Long, hot shower... Okay, I'll give you that one since it IS the one place you really can't take laptop or pen and paper.
- That quickie? Eh, that's really debatable. I guess if it means keeping the peace with your sweetie or the shower isn't enough to relax you. Okay, that's a freebie, too.
So, let's just add up the time you DID have to sit around and twiddle your thumbs - about 4 1/2 to 5 hours! 20-25 hours per week! You're telling me you can't sneak in a couple of hours of creative writing time here or there? Bullshit, you maggot!!!
Now, I'm not sayin' that you need to spend all of that time writing every single day. Oh, no sir (or ma'am). I am taking into consideration that there are probably 2 days during the week that you should have off in which you could devote a couple of hours to your writing, as well.
And I am the cook in my family, so I don't want to hear "20-30 minutes of free time while I'm cooking? You don't know what you're talking about, Clive." Really? I spent about 15 years in the restaurant industry - and a lot of that time was in the kitchen as a cook - so I know a little something about cooking times and I also know that not everyone spends 100% of the time hovering over the stove while making dinner. This ain’t the 1920’s!
The bulk of your time is probably spent in front of that stupid television. Why? Is it because if you don't watch the latest episode of one of those mind-numbing shows then you won't have anything to talk about with your co-workers tomorrow? Is losing time writing your masterpiece really worth chattering with your buds about the lives of people you don't even know?
Well, what about the lives characters in your book? You created them! You dictate the course of their existence. That's pretty powerful shit! If I had the choice... and I do... I'd rather tell my co-workers about the adventures of the characters in my stories.
Plus, what I share with them will come back to me in feedback and motivate me to keep writing into the next chapter until the book is done. That's a built-in audience and they will, no doubt, be among the first to buy a copy when I finally get that book into print. And that's a feeling like no other.
Now, go shut off that damned BOOB TUBE or stop surfing the net and start writing!!!
I’ll be back soon…