Sleepless in Seattle

Try clueless in Santa Fe. It’s the eleventh hour. I have a post to submit—actually, I had one, but it was way too controversial—and I have no idea what other brilliant thought I might inspire you all with this time around. But isn’t this part of the game? Deadlines, inspiration—or lack thereof—and a blank ream of paper?

Really, this is what my life is about every morning. It is what every writer’s life is about every morning, every minute, every day. Peter de Vries, author of Slouching Towards Kalamazoo, The Blood of the Lamb, Consenting Adults Or the Duchess Will Be Furious and others said,

“I only write when I’m inspired, so I see to it that I’m inspired every morning at nine o’clock.”

It’s the writer’s version of Nike’s “Just Do It” and should be written in one’s own blood on whatever wall one chooses to face while sitting at the word processor. Writing is not just about the euphoria one experiences when the muse is whispering in one’s ear. Writing is about discipline and learning to sweat words onto a page, because if your dreams come true and you find yourself with a multi-book deal, it is what you will have to do when you’re faced with fulfilling it, when you are heading towards “Z Is For…” and you’re only half way through the alphabet plumb out of ideas.

Perhaps that is why so many would-be writers give up. They don’t yearn to write. They yearn to have written. They yearn to have a finished product sitting on bookstore shelves and yearn to be sitting at signing parties. They don’t yearn to stare at a page they have written while their mind screams at them, “This is crap!” knowing it is crap.

Those of us who persevere and complete, not just one, but several novels, don’t necessarily yearn for that kind of internal monologue. Nonetheless, we would rather endure it than stare at ourselves in the mirror knowing we didn’t even try. Consequently, we force ourselves to sit and wrestle with words and sentences, trying to coax the vision lurking in the back of our minds onto the page and into the minds of our one-day readers.

Dr. Fox, an English professor of mine at Loyola University (in the dinosaur days before it became Loyola-Marymount), required my class to write one page every day. I didn’t understand the exercise at the outset, but at the end of the semester I was amazed how easy this exercise had become. I was also impressed how much better my later pages were than my earlier ones. I decided the mind is a muscle and benefits from regular exercise.

I hope those of you thinking about being a part of the delightful madness of the writing vocation realize what you need to be doing this morning. And tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that…



5 responses to “Sleepless in Seattle

  1. I always say if you want to write for fun, enjoy! But if you want a writing career, it’s your job – so do the work.

    Word by word by word. Or, as Anne Lamott says, Bird by Bird. 🙂

  2. Doing it now, Ray. Thanks for reinforcing the message,

  3. I’m not surprised you’re diligent.

  4. I tell aspiring screenwriters who take my workshops, that writing is more craft than art. The more you write the better you get. The art part is Story telling.


    PS: I’m late again today, sorry — I was busy writing.
    But I didn’t forget you


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