Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"I still have vivid recollections of putting in day after day of trying a case in front of a jury, which one of the most exhausting activities I know about, dashing up to the law library after court had adjourned to spend three or four hours looking up law points with which I could trap my adversary the next day, then going home, grabbing a glass of milk with an egg in it, dashing upstairs to my s...tudy, ripping the cover off my typewriter, noticing it was 11:30 p.m. and settling down with grim determination to get a plot for a story. Along about 3 in the morning I would have completed my daily stint of a 4,000 word minimum and would crawl into bed."--Erle Stanley Gardner, creator of Perry Mason

Wow. Now that is a writer.

Gardner was known as a prolific writer and that reputation was well deserved. He wrote all the Perry Mason novels--as many as 6 a year--plus westerns and other genres. He also wrote travel guides for fun.

One English novelist, Anthony Trollope worked for the British postal service. He would arise at 5 every day and write for exactly 2 hours. This schedule was ironclad. If he finished a novel with 15 minutes to spare, he'd roll a fresh piece of paper into the typewriter and start a new novel. If he was in the middle of a sentence when the two hours was up, he'd put it away and pick it up mid sentence in the morning.

By now you might see that there is something that these authors possessed even more than their ability to create stories. Discipline.

It's necessary if you're going to do this job and get anything done. You must carve out writing time each day and just do it. TV off, family aside, you need to do it.

I know a woman who is a great writer. She can come up with stories that can make you laugh out loud, cry, think, bring out every emotion you can name. I've read some of her work and it's great. But you'll never see it. It's never been published--in fact most of the stories in her head have never even been put down on paper--or screen. Why? She doesn't have the discipline needed to do it. By her own admission. She gets too distracted by other things or simple doesn't have the attention span needed to sit down and do the job. It's a pity, really. The world is missing a great talent who could develop into a great writer.

Knowing how to write and actually sitting your butt down and doing it can be two very different things. Some tips:

1) Carve out a space for you to write. Make it your personal writing space. Mine is a desk in the corner of my bedroom. Stephen King's was a utility closet where he'd balance the typewriter on his knees. Make it somewhere that will provide you with no distractions.

2) Find your best time and write. I'm not a big morning person so my best time is later in the day. Since I have a day job it's usually after dinner.

3) Cut the TV off. This is my biggest problem and sometimes I have to force myself to turn off the tube and go write.

Remember, these books won't write themselves.

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