Welcome Discouragement

To be open to writing is to be open to all the familiar parts of the writing process: the elation, the discouragement, and all that lies between.  Welcome discouragement.  Without it, you’ll get nowhere, even though it can be the hardest of your old friends to love.

Wake up your settings

Most of us are aware of the oft-cited truth that the passive voice (‘The ball was hit by the boy.’) does not work as well, when you’re writing creatively, as the active voice (‘The boy hit the ball.’) You can immediately see that there’s more energy in the latter. But I’m often surprised by how typically people resort to other passive constructions to convey the world in which their story is set: “The chair was by the window,” or the ubiquitous “There was a chair by the window.” It’s as if the chair is sleeping there, just waiting for someone to come in and give it a shake.

At the final, copy-editing stage, when such considerations come into view, wake up your settings. Use active verbs, rather than citing passive states: “The chair stood by the window” or “waited by the window”. You’ll find your writing gets a sudden burst of life.

The best time to write

Especially these days, when time can flow by unmarked in a way we have never experienced before, I worry when people say, “I can only write at such-and-such a time”. Yes, it’s always good to have a routine to give yourself a boost. But you can’t write at any other time? Really?

My worry is that any hard-and-fast rule we can come up with about writing is manna to the Inner Critic. Of course you can write any time of the day or night. The writing may look different then, but is that such a bad thing?

Experiment. Stay curious. And remember (to borrow from Ed Lawrence, CBC Radio’s gardening guru, who says “The best time to prune is when you have the secateurs in your hand”): the best time to write is when you have some time.  End of story.

Put some words down daily

As the decade draws to a close, look back and appreciate how much closer you’ve come to the realization of your writing hopes. During this decade, the world has become vastly busier (The number of emails sent, for example, has more than tripled. Working people now receive an average or 120 emails a day). So not only have you made progress: you’ve made progress against increasingly stiff competition from daily life.

Writing requires that you reach into the depths of yourself — that’s what makes it so profoundly satisfying. But to do that, you need time, and relief from the tasks of life. Take some time, right now, to consider what it is you want for your writing in the new decade. Then set aside some time each morning, coffee in hand, to dig a little deeper “before others are awake” (as William Stafford puts it). Put some words down daily, and all the rest will follow. Believe me; I know.