Friday, August 13, 2010

How to Write When You Can't

This is the most basic skill a writer needs. Write in your head. All the time.

Write your story while you do laundry and dishes and clean the catboxes. Write during routine tasks at the soul-sucking day job. Write while nodding and saying "oh, dear" to your neighbor's 18th recital of how the grocery clerk was rude to her. That way, when you get the chance to write, you can do it.

Even when the chance is a 15-minute coffee break at the soul-sucking day job. Even when the chance is five minutes between getting the baby down for the nap and the toddler having an emergency. Even when the chance is a glorious free morning in which you are brain-dead because you haven't slept in three days and the new medicine is making you stupid and nauseated and you can't think a new thought to save your life.

It'll all be lined up in your head ready to go. Trust me. But you have to make a habit of it. That pump has to stay primed.

Oh, and past a certain point it's counterproductive to do it while waiting to go to sleep at night. If you can't turn your brain off, though, writing your story is a better rut to run down than global warming, overpopulation, war, death, what the boss meant by that odd remark, the state of your finances, that pain in your knee, or the fact that you can't sleep.

Learn this while you're young, and it will not desert you. All my books have been written this way, one way or another.

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