This post is for a good friend and writing buddy who first introduced me to the incredible writing blog of Alexandra Sokoloff. I recently bought Sokoloff’s Kindle edition of Screenwriting Tricks For Authors (and Screenwriters!), which I highly recommend. Although most of the information in the book is available on her blog, having it all in one place and for a terrific price makes the book a steal (and if you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the reader for your PC for free).
“Even though you will inevitably end up writing on projects that should be abandoned, you cannot afford to abandon any project. You must finish what you start, no matter how you feel about it. If that project never goes anywhere, that’s tough, I feel your pain. But it happens to all of us. You do not know in the middle of the anguish and despair that is writing if you are going to be able to pull it off or not. The only way you will ever be able to pull it off is to get in the unwavering, completely non-negotiable habit of JUST DOING IT.
Your only hope is to keep going. Sit your ass down in the chair and keep cranking out your non-negotiable minimum number of daily pages, or words, in order, until you get to the end.
This is the way writing gets done.”
Yesterday was a productive day. I spent almost all day on a non-fiction writing project, one with a deadline and that I was able to finish early. I spent some time catching up on emails. I resubmitted a short story that had just come back. After supper, I had some time before my husband and I planned to watch a short program about the making of the new Mildred Pierce miniseries. My head ached, and a drowsy numbness pained my sense (with apologies to Keats), and I was tempted to read a magazine or suggest we watch the program early or otherwise check out for the day.
But I hadn’t done any work on my novel. Then, Sokoloff’s word “non-negotiable” rose front and center in my mind, and I knew that if I spent just 20 or 30 minutes adding something, anything to that work, I’d go to bed and wake up the next morning much happier and more relaxed, without the exhausting weight of that which is left undone.
So, sit my ass down and crank out the words I did–only a couple of paragraphs, and I winced at some of the sentences, knowing I’d need to change them later–but when I went to bed, I could answer Dan Pink’s second question with a categorical “yes.”
My writing buddy and I had coffee this week, and we talked about the challenge of keeping up the momentum on a large writing project while working full-time (she is; I’m not) and being a mom to two teenagers (she is; I have only one, who is no longer living at home) and conscientiously fulfilling the responsibilities of work and family and home and social events and causes. She inspires me more than she could ever know, and she is a fantastic writer. Afterward, I got an email from her, saying that she was able to put in 20 minutes on her own large work-in-progress.
That is the way writing gets done.