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Writing requires hard work, but not everything happens during hard work

November 2, 2012

What writer-type stuff do you want for Christmas (or your holiday of choice)? Let me know. We’re compiling a Holiday Gift Guide for publication in early December. 

If you’re part of corporate America, you probably get at least a small dose of motivational stuff tossed at you periodically. Quotes from Stephen Covey and Vince Lombardi and whatever guru of harder work happens to be in vogue at the time.

Even when I work out, the enticements are always to more. Shaun T, the evil, sadistic bastard behind the Insanity workout program implores you to dig deeper, as you take the tiny little break he gives you and try to figure out how to get through the remaining sixteen years of exercise in his video.

For a lot of things, that approach works. It works in writing. The process of writing requires your fingers to dance across a keyboard (or guide a writing utensil across a page). But some things can’t be solved by the straight-ahead, work harder until you get there approach. Many of the things that add depth to your work come by allowing the ideas to come to you. By observing aspects of other stories and applying them to yours.

In my current work in progress, the relationship between my protagonist’s wife and her mother and sister is influenced by the relationship of the main character on In Plain Sight with her mother and sister. Much of what drives my protagonist’s business partner, a radio host, is driven by things I’ve noticed about the confluence of social media and the implosion of traditional media–and the perceptions of what it might take to succeed in that emerging world.

I didn’t work harder to assemble these ideas, but they came to me over time, as I fit the pieces together in different ways.

Hard work is vitally important to succeed in writing, but so’s contemplation. You can get as much work done on a long walk–no MP3 player, though–as you can by planting your butt at a desk or table for five hours.

Sometimes when you dig deeper, all you wind up with is a bigger hole.

  1. November 2, 2012 6:10 am

    Hard work is essential and I agree, sometimes the bestr solution to a writing dilemma comes to me on the treadmill!

  2. November 2, 2012 8:09 am

    And even with a mp3 player! Sometimes it’s a song that hits the mark, while I’m walking, or driving. One early early morning I had in a Lizz Wright CD and a song I’d heard before and liked came on. But what I heard this particular time, on this drive made me start to cry at the scene that the music played to me for a current wip. I wrote it down as soon as I got home. I don’t mind that kind of ‘hard’ work!

  3. November 2, 2012 8:29 am

    Reading other people’s good writing and paying attention to how they construct their work has taught me more about writing than anything, I think. Like Annie Dillard points out, “The writer studies literature, not the world.” Here’s the link to her article, Write Till You Drop:

  4. Susan Berry permalink
    November 3, 2012 4:03 pm

    Sometimes I find that I walk away from the table after finishing a scene and little details that I had left out come to mind…in addition to a host of other ideas. It’s figuring out where and how they fit in that is the hard part. The FWA t-shirt with the caution about becoming a character in a novel sums it up just right.

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