I’m asked the following question several times a week via Facebook, with clients, and when I meet people at my speaking engagements: how do I find time to write my own book Tony? I’ll reveal the answer at the end of this post, but let me first share with you the most brilliant list I’ve ever seen assembled of how not to be a writer.
This is a partial excerpt from chapter 18 of the brilliant book, God Never Blinks, by Regina Britt which addresses this universal question. I couldn’t stop laughing out loud as I read her advice as I could easily relate to it.
Watch hours of mindless TV. Check your email. Instant message your friends. Visit a chat room of writers. Answer the phone every time it rings.
Fret over whether it’s who or whom, lie or lay, its or it’s, you and I or you and me.
Agonize over whether to use colons or semicolons. Spend hours pondering over using longhand or shorthand, computer or legal pad, pen or pencil, blue ink or black, Mac or PC.
Recall every bad writing grade you ever got. Replay scenes in your head of every teacher who ever criticized your work. Hold debates with the invisible editors who call a meeting in your head every hour. Weep over rejection letters you haven’t received but are sure you will.
How not to write?
Let technology scare you. Postpone writing until you learn how to electronically number all the pages. Get your doctorate in creative writing first. Start therapy. Find the right writer’s group.
Wait until you get over your fear of rejection or fear of success. Tell yourself the odds of getting published are against you. Worry about how you’ll pay the bills. Compare yourself to everyone else.
Complain that it’s too hot, too cold, too muggy, or too nice outside to write.
Try hard to add significantly to the world of great literature.
Analyze every idea before you write the first sentence. Strive for perfection. Declare yourself the next Shakespeare.
Try to write like anyone except yourself. Use only big words to impress people.
How not to write?
Sign up for another writer’s conference instead of actually writing.
Constantly tell yourself you have nothing to say. Consult your horoscope. Make a list of all the people who don’t thin you’ll cut it as a writer.
File your nails. Water the plants. Clean the basement. Open an office. Build a hermitage in the backyard or an entire wing on the house to write in.
Look for affirmation from everyone around you. Ignore your own sorrows, passions, and music. Whine about how nobody understands you.
Demand an advance first.
Talk to telemarketers. Play solitaire on the computer. Make a to-do list with writing as the top priority.
Complain about the English teacher who scarred you. The professor who ignored you. The brother who stole your diaries. The sister who read your journals.
Waste time envying other writers who have it so easy.
Edit as you go. Check the rules of grammar and punctuation before you finish every paragraph.
Talk about your ideas so much that even you lose interest.
How not to write?
Wait until you have children. Wait until your children stop teething, finish soccer season, and go off to college. Wait until you have two hours of uninterrupted time to write.
Wait until you quit smoking, quit drinking, or find the right drink and are stone drunk.
Wait until your siblings move and your parents die. Wait until you meet the love of your life. Wait until vacation is over. Wait until you retire.
Wait until you find your muse. Wait until you feel inspired. Wait until a doctor says you’ve got six months to live.
Then die with your words still inside of you.
I carry a picture of legendary writer John Grisham (Over 100 million copies of his books in print) in my daily planner with a quote he shares on the topic of writing that inspires and pushed me forward.
“The best advice I ever got was to write at least one page a day. Until you write a page, nothing is going to happen.”