How to Really Write That Book – Part 1

Yes, there are parts and I’ll tell you why. It takes more than a good idea to make it onto the NYT best-seller list. There is an old saying that goes, “If you’re going to eat an elephant, do it one bite at a time.” The reason I am writing about this at all is that I have managed to write three books so far and I’d like to spare you the decade it took me to figure out and execute the steps necessary to have something you can hold in your hand that has words and your name on it.

Writing is like any other sport, activity, or subject you can get better at. The one thing we all say but rarely do is apply the adage, “Practice makes perfect.” This means that you need to work out those writing muscles, namely, producing content. When I look at writers who struggle to crank out one sentence a day or who show up at the page and stare for hours, I imagine a marathon runner who spends his/her time looking at their running shoes and standing in place…or maybe taking a few steps before going back inside for dinner. Athletes know that they must move their bodies in order to improve their bodies and it is no different for writers. I would go so far as to say it is the same for any creative field.

There is a lot of hype and mystery around “artists.” Somewhere in the evolution of the artistic persona, people were taught to believe that inspiration materializes instantly from nothing. You’ve either got it or you haven’t. I passionately disagree. You would have a hard time convincing me that a marathon runner was actually a runner if they never got out of the garage, let alone the starting gate. Creativity, athleticism, spirituality; it’s all the same story. You gotz to put in the time to get the carrot at the end.

So WRITE. I suggest taking a page from Julia Cameron’s incredibly inspiring book, The Artist’s Way.  She advocates “Morning Pages” and I can honestly say, this exercise is what gave me the proof that I could write an entire book. The process is simple. Do it every day.

1. Open your notebook. (Do this on paper with a pen or pencil.)

2. Start moving your hand and forming words. Any words.

3. Continue until three pages are filled.

4. Close the journal and forget about it until the next day.

A few words on this process: Do NOT read what you have written. This is the equivalent of logging your miles. There will be a time and place for editing and fine-tuning, but not now. Do not think about what you are writing. This is your venting, dumping, ranting, chanting, day-dreaming place to work out the heebie-jeebies.

Do this for at least two months and then look at the sheer quantity of material you have produced. Whether it is “good” or “bad” is irrelevant. Writing a book is like climbing a mountain and it doesn’t have to be pretty to be an accomplishment. Consider this your first draft of your first book. Having a full journal, or three, is an amazing sight to behold and yes, it is alright to gloat a bit at this point. It is even alright to write about how much closer you are getting to having a novel full of writing in your Morning Pages. I lined my finished journals up on my window sill as I finished them and would become filled with delight whenever my eye fell on the growing stack. Sometimes I counted them out loud just to hear the numbers rise. Writer’s equivalent of flexing in the mirror.

Write your Morning Pages wherever you are, whenever you can. Do not obsess over creating a ritual place and space that must be perfect in order for you to begin writing. Runners run in rain, sleet, snow, and hail. You can develop the tenacity to write under any circumstances and in any conditions. While you might not have to, it’s a damn good foundation to have. Creativity is as natural as moving the body. Use it. Every day.

That’s it. Step one. Shout about how it’s going and KEEP WRITING!

 

Jaime Mathis grew up half feral, half in a cult, in the countryside near Oregon City, Oregon. Without books she would have gone pure Tarzan and hence, thanks literature for both sanity and social skills. After travelling the world and picking up a husband in Spain, she returned like a salmon to her spawning grounds where she now resides with 13 chickens, a son and her Dane. You can see her work in places like FORTH Magazine, Dirty Chai, and The Flexible Persona.

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