Saturday, September 11, 2010

Carpe Diem!

Every once in awhile you run across a book on writing that is so tremendous and informative that you have to tell every other writer about it. I've found such a book in Quit Your Day Job! by Jim Denney. The book has been around for awhile, but I found out about it on Kristi Holl's blog, Writer's First Aid. Since I was at loose ends for a book for the time being, I decided to check it out and read it. I love it.

Jim Denney approaches writing as a cut and dried business, which is what a writer needs to do if he or she is not simply a hobby writer. I thought of myself as a working writer of sorts, mainly because I'm consistently (albeit slowly) creating new material and shucking it out the door to publishers and agents. But Jim says that if you want to call yourself a writer, you really have to be writing every day.

I'll admit right now that I don't do that. I know it's possible, because I wrote an entire 50,000 word novel in about 25 days during Nanowrimo last year. I think I missed one or possibly two days of writing, but I know I can do it. But normally I don't write like that every day. During the school year I have a tremendous amount of studying and reading to do, in addition to grading, etc. I have to prioritize, because as a home schooler, it's a lifestyle choice that I'm not willing to give up my personal day job in order to write. Also, in real life, most writers have other jobs. Jim Denney's point is not that every writer should give up his or her day job. His point is that if you want to, and you're motivated, it can be done successfully. In my personal season, there is one thing that I believe I could handle that would enable me to classify myself as a writer.

Grab 15

The truth is, people have time for what they choose to have time for. Let me qualify this by saying rare is the individual who truly doesn't have time for any particular activity. Of course, every person has to make choices about his or her time use, but let's be honest about it. Generally, it's not that you don't have time; it's that you choose to use your time for other purposes. That's okay.

With that said, commit yourself to grabbing 15 minutes (preferably at the beginning of the day when you're fresh and ideas are often flowing freely) to write. Everyone can commit just 15 minutes. Carry a notebook with you. Don't rely on the laptop or computer hooked to the wall. That simple 15 minutes will translate into 91.25 hours over the space of a year. That's over two weeks of full time writing. It's almost enough to write an entire novel, in fact, looking back at the time I spent during Nanowrimo. The whole first draft of that November novel took between 50 to 70 hours to write.

Your reward for those daily 15 minutes? You can say the words, "I am a writer," with a clear conscience, because you are no longer a hobbyist who waits for inspiration. You're a staple-your-rear-end-to-the-chair-whether-I-feel-like-it-or-not-writer. The best part is that you'll see the fruit of your commitment in time.

In closing (sounds ominous) I'd like to say that accountability is very nice when it comes to keeping yourself motivated to produce that daily 15. I found that out during Nanowrimo. Chris Baty, the Executive Director of Nanowrimo, suggests you do things such as promise to wash someone's car if you don't meet your daily quota or ask your spouse and kids to find new and embarrassing penalties if you don't make yourself do the daily work. In Quit Your Day Job!, Jim Denney sites one writer who would belt himself to his chair, guzzle a 2-liter of Diet Coke, and not allow himself bathroom breaks until he had hit his quota. That's creative self-motivation, but it would be a little extreme for me. I don't think I could type with that much caffeine coursing through my veins, either, but feel free to get creative. You can do this.

So, is anyone out there willing to take their writing to a daily 15/365? No matter what? Let's hear what you have to say about it.

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