Sit and Write
At so many Q&As with writers, someone in the audience will lift their hand and ask a question along the lines of, “How to you write?” They want details–does the writer get up hellishly early and slog away at their keyboard for hours before sun up? Do they plan every scene in advance? Keep a notebook? Use a particular software?
What they are looking for is the magic dust that will make the sheer effort of writing more manageable. I understand it: writing is a joy, but it is also hard work. You can’t write a novel (at least, I don’t think you can) unless at least on some level you come at it as a job–one you love, but that needs you to show up and do it. The truth is what works for one writer (planning each scene, writing the entire first draft longhand, eating coffee grounds to fire themselves up–yeah, Balzac did that) won’t necessarily work for someone else. Sure, you can pick up tips and tricks from other writers (Skip the scene that’s giving you trouble and write another one! If you’re stuck, write in a new location!), but ultimately, you have to learn what sort of writer you are, and work with that. I can’t outline–it kills all inspiration. So I make myself write a lot, and know I’ll have to throw away thousands of words. That’s just the way it is.
Every now and again, I’ll run into someone who’ll tell me all about the book they will one day write. So many people have books they want to write–and although talking about it is one way to give it life, what they need to do is sit down and start writing it. That’s when the bright, shiny idea in their head hits the reality of words on the page, but that’s also the moment to wrestle with the only material we have as writers: words. And if we don’t sit down and type in one after the other, our stories will not get written.