How a Book Is Born, Part 4

BIC. That’s the acronym for the number-one thing writers must learn how to do: put the Butt In the Chair.

So, with just about a month to write 50,000 words, and the barest of game plans, I stuck my butt in the chair. Now, keep in mind that I also have a demanding full-time job as the acquisitions editor/imprint manager of Crimson Romance, am the single mother of a special needs daughter, and have Kung Fu practice two nights a week and sometimes on Saturdays. I wasn’t going to sacrifice any of those things for the sake of the book, a lesson I learned over long years of having too much to do and not enough time to do it in. If you sacrifice the important things when it’s busy, you’ll sacrifice them for other reasons, too. So you sacrifice the not-important things.

Random Internet surfing? Gone. Television? Haven’t owned one in nearly fifteen years. Incessant checking of email? So over that. Vacuuming, dusting, sweeping? It is to laugh.

Focus. That’s how all of this gets done.

You don’t learn how to focus the first time you sit down to do it; it’s a discipline that comes through daily practice over months and years, which is why I always say the biggest key to my success is that I’ve already figured out how to focus. When I’m writing, I’m writing. When I’m practicing Kung Fu, I’m practicing Kung Fu. When I’m hanging out with friends . . . you got it, I’m not checking my smartphone.

But if you haven’t learned how to focus, and you put your butt in chair, you are going to drive yourself nuts till you figure out how to flip the switch. You just have to accept that it is hard work to overcome the brain’s desire to go do something else. And you do that hard work until you don’t have to think about it anymore.

The most important thing you can do in your search for focus is to not tie it to any particular place or way of doing business. Every now and then I read those articles where writers talk about how they have to play a certain CD in order to write, or have this kind of writing implement in hand, or be in that kind of mood, and I grow deeply concerned for them because they’re one “we don’t carry that brand anymore” disaster away from debilitating writer’s block.

The kindest thing you can do for yourself is to learn how to write anywhere, with any implement, under any circumstances. I stumbled onto this secret in my early days of writing when my daughter was born with very serious medical problems. I had books under contract to deliver, so I learned how to write in waiting rooms and clinics and hospital rooms, no matter what my emotional state was or who was getting paged over the intercom. I learned to write with good coffee, bad coffee, cold coffee, and no coffee. I learned to write when I didn’t feel like it and even when Mercury was in retrograde.

And for the fifteen years since, I have been grateful to that brutal introduction to getting things done no matter what. I don’t give myself excuses. I just don’t. I see writers who do, and they are some of the most deeply unhappy people on this planet.

No excuses. Butt in chair. Do the work.

A few of my favorite things

LESSONS IN MAGIC
A CERTAIN KIND OF MAGIC
THE IMPROBABLE ADVENTURES OF A MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN
DOJO WISDOM FOR WRITERS

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