Your Writing Life: The Dream
You want a writing life. You dream of a writing life. I know the dream, because I have it, too. It’s the one where you’re at your desk in your home office. With an ocean view, of course. And it’s where you’ve penned any number of New York Times bestsellers. You’re on the phone with your awesome agent. The one who has sold several of your books to Hollywood. Serious writer that you are, you’ve learned the craft of screenwriting. So you’ve co-written your most recent book-to-movie-deal screenplay. And now it’s Oscar-nominated. Your agent has called to tell you the buzz is good. You should start working on your acceptance speech.
Let’s see. How does it go? Oh, yes: “I’d like to thank the Academy ….”
Hey, it’s a dream. So you may as well dream big!
Your Writing Life: The Reality
You’re staring at your blank laptop screen and sitting at your kitchen table. Dirty dishes fill the sink. No further scene-setting necessary.
Question: How are you going to get from Nowhere to the Red Carpet?
My answer: One line at a time.
The metaphor of writing as weaving is as old as time. I’m going to use it here. But not for the act of writing. Rather, to help you think about the weave of writing in your life.
If you write one page a month, the weave of writing in your life is loose to non-existent.
Upfront point: The tighter the weave, the closer you are to Hollywood.
My Writing Life: The Beginning
Every writer’s journey is different. I offer mine not as a blueprint for yours but as an example.
One. Know that getting started is hard
When I started out, I could write, at most, two paragraphs a day. And those two paragraphs exhausted me. Even worse, when I reviewed them the next day, I could see that they were terrible.
Some lucky writers are naturals. When they first begin to write, it comes easily. Me, I’m not a natural. In fact, I think most writers are not. It took me ten years of grueling writing to even be able to formulate the idea that Writing is an Aerobic Activity.
Because it was so difficult for me, I didn’t write every day. I needed downtime. For quite a few years the weave of my writing life was pretty darned loose.
My Writing Life: The Stages
Two. Establish a habit
You need to establish the habit of writing. The easiest way is to keep a writing calendar where you mark down every day how much you write. If you skip a day or two, then that’s that. But get back on track. Any drivel will do. As long as you do it.
There is a widespread myth that it takes 28 days to form a new habit. However, it might take two months or more.
Once you establish the habit, I guarantee it’s easier to keep with it than to stop and try to reestablish it.
Three. Finish something
After throwing away the first few blobs, I finally finished a book. It was My Lord Roland, a medieval romance. I sold it to Warner Books.
Then I finished another sixteen for the mass market before I decided to go indie. Now I’ve finished another twenty.
I know too many writers who have a great idea and go at it with gusto. Then hit a wall. Their solution? Start a new story. This cycle of start-stop-start-stop can go on for years.
Break the cycle. Finish something. Even if it’s terrible. Terribleness can be fixed by your patient ruthless eye or – more easily – by a good editor. (Worth the money!) Unfinished can only be fixed by finishing.
Four. Expand your writing repertoire
For years I was a long-form novelist and thought I always would be. I tightened the weave in my writing life when I tried other forms: novellas first, then blogging.
When it was first suggested to me five years ago, I scoffed at the idea of writing a blog. I mean, everybody and their brother and sister writes one. Why would I want to? Who would want to read it?
Turns out, a lot of people. Surprisingly. I hear from my readers all the time.
And committing to writing two blogs a week has been a wonderful addition to my writing life.
If you’re already blogger, you might want to try writing poetry or sit com scripts.
My Writing Life: The Current Reality
Five. Weave writing throughout your day
The weave of writing in my life is now tight. By that I mean that most of my day is organized around writing. In that sense, I am living the dream.
Because I do a lot of travel, my home office is mobile. My views vary. For five days in May this year, while I attended to my writing in the evening, I had this view of Singapore:
Here’s the more prosaic view from the desk I’m writing at now:
I’m in a hotel in Coconut Grove, Miami. This year I’m living it up as Visiting Professor at Florida International University.
Although Hollywood has not come calling, I am in Hollywood, in a metaphorical sense. I’m in contact with other talented writers and constantly meeting more. My Love and the City trilogy was just released. My Forest Breeze (Vietnam) trilogy is in production. I have a novella to revise based on the excellent suggestions of a talented editor.
More money, a movie deal or an award would be nice. But they’re not necessary. I’m already doing what I want to do.
Title image: Kate Park “Weaving a Dual Identity”
This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen