Writers have a built-in hunger for advice. Born of insecurity, I think. Or maybe I say that because my insecurities have been throwing a party ever since the final feedback came in on my manuscript. Still, I stand by it. Writing is hard. Much harder than anyone can imagine. The hardness unique to each writer, which is why we’re always on the lookout for the secret that will make it easier.
Of course, there are no magic feathers, pens or software. And so, we do whatever we can to increase the odds by devouring craft books and attending workshops and webinars and conferences— Oh My!
Like Salmon Rushdie, who believes the only rule, really, is whatever works…we’ll try whatever in order to increase our understanding and fast track our books to publication. We plot, pants and cling to superstitions such as lighting candles, listening to specific music, scratching out morning pages before every writing session because it’s worked so far. We bond to superstitions and wear them proudly like Boy Scouts wear badges.
I’m as guilty as any writer of all the above. Every day throughout the revision process I wore tiny eagle earrings because an eagle in flight has a stronger point of view. The only thing I haven’t tried is Plotting. And it ain’t going to happen. I don’t care how many famous authors adhere to it. My brain implodes as soon as I threaten to write a Roman numeral or a capital A. I’m even guilty of belonging to…
The Five A.M. Writers Club— writers who get up before the sun, sometimes as early as four in the morning to write. They’ll write for one or two hours. Others will write till noon or until they reach a certain word count— Hemingway’s 1000 is usually the target. Stephen King pumped it up to 2000 a day, but even he has dropped back to Hem’s goal.
I was a participant early in my journey because I worked full time. The early hour is also popular for moms with little kids because it’s the only time— other than maybe nap time when the house is quiet. I enjoyed it and have thought about returning to it many times over the last few years. But I won’t because of my morning Sadhana. Yoga and meditation is the equivalent to morning pages for my heart and soul and needs to be nurtured first.
Still, I’ve been tempted— especially tempted this week after I saw a post on Instagram by a mom with two young babes. She wanted to get up before dawn to get the writing done, but the alarm woke her seven-month-old. She fell asleep nursing him. She tried again but hit the snooze button and it was all over. She planned to try again.
Her disappointment was palpable. And I sensed that somewhere in the back of her mind, she believed this particular Club would not only validate her as a writer but also the writing. She needed a hug, so I dropped some hearts and told her to go for it. Writers need to try things out and find what works best. But I also cautioned against pressuring herself. Writing before dawn doesn’t come with a guarantee of excellence in storytelling. Neither do word counts. The only way for a writer to improve is to show up because…
Planning to write is not writing. Outlining…researching…talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing— E.L. Doctorow
Plus, our Muses don’t work on a timetable. They don’t say, “This writer doesn’t deserve inspiration because they didn’t get up early enough.” They flutter around us like butterflies on a sunny day. The only way to reap the gifts of their magic is to face the page and all the fears that come with it. Show up with patience and persist long enough and the writing improves. As long as you…
Leave out the parts that readers skip— Elmore Leonard