“Write what you know.” This is a mantra said and read by many writers, particularly in reference to the novice compositionist. Hmm, novice compositionist, I might use that on my business cards.
Answers.com and Ask.com among others have made many folks experts where, in times gone by, about five years ago, experts were not only someone who knew something, but also someone who had something to show for it. You remember, a medical expert for example, was someone who actually graduated from medical school and generally worked in the field of medicine before handing out medical advice. Now anyone who has had a sprained ankle or the chicken pox is an expert on pain, rashes, fevers, sprains, broken bones and child rearing.
That said, today I am going to share tips with you in an area I am rapidly becoming an expert: how to avoid writing. As a person who has chosen to dedicate my life to putting words on paper, I am getting very good at not doing just that.
The first thing to do is have a good idea. This is very important. You may not have recognized this as part of the process but it is. And perhaps, the most important part, none of the following tips matter until you have had an idea, and not just any idea, a really good one. An author that is new to me and rapidly becoming a favorite is Robin McKinley. Robin shared on her blog dated February 4, 2012, “It’s HARD. This is why The Urge to kill people who offer to split the money with you if they give you their Great Idea and you do the dull stupid labor of writing it up because the idea is the hard part and besides you already have the name and the publishing contacts, is pretty overwhelming. Fortunately most of these offers come by post/email. Back in the days when I went to more live things and people used occasionally to offer this blithering asininity to my face civilized restraint was more difficult.”
That’s true for me too. The thing that amazes me is that ideas come in a flash – Lightening! Bam! But getting the words on paper, in the right order, with the exact amount of convincing dialogue and full of compelling emotion. That’s tricky. So instead, avoid putting your good idea on paper, or hard drive with your fancy schmancy technology. Here are some several hints to help you not write.
1) Sit in the kitchen to write. There you will suddenly realize you’re thirsty. Go to the refrigerator. There you will suddenly realize you need to clean out the fridge. It’s imperative. Urgently you begin to throw out the two year expired condiments. Then realize, a few hours later, that the muse has left you. She drown in your bucket of dishwater and you are now too tired to revive her and write anything.
a. Incidentally, this works with any household chore. The dishes you never care about? The closet that is spilling over? The laundry piling up? Just sit down to write and suddenly housework becomes a priority. It’s like magic.
2) If you want to avoid writing, try talking about the idea instead. For me, the more I talk about a story the further it flies from my pencil. It’s like some cosmic mathematical equation. I talk about it because I want it to be. I want it to metamorphisize from the sparkle in my eye into the great American novel. As someone once said (online credits from Hemingway to Gloria Steinem), “Writers don’t like to write, they like to have written.” Goddamn that’s the truth!
3) If talking about my idea doesn’t kill it, then there’s always the chance I’ll over-think it. How is that possible? You ask. For me the best delivery of a story comes from pencil to paper. The minutia of mentally hashing and rehashing adnauseum does nothing to = words on paper. And only words on paper = finishing a story.
4) Butt in seat, pencil to paper, that’s when the work gets done. Oooh, but there’s the problem. Work. Art shouldn’t be work. Art should be a beautiful flow from the universe using me as a mere conduit to relay her greater purpose. If it’s work then it must not be valid. If it’s hard then maybe I’m not supposed to be the one telling it. Maybe if I crawl into a bottle of wine or took a few pretty pills the cosmos will open up for me and I can spew greatness. (This leads to spewing, but not greatness.)
5) If you’re still determined to work that idea into a novel, song, story, blog or article, next look for the perfect environment in which to create. We’ve already nixed the kitchen table. Not the office, the desk is a mess. Not the coffee shop, it’s too noisy. The library? Nah, too quiet. Hmmm, maybe just take a drive for awhile to think, you know, clear your head and, Oh! Look at the time…I guess you’ll have to try writing again tomorrow.
6) Okay. The day has come, the hour, the moment! You are now in the perfect setting, you’re sober, clear headed, determined, thoughts are racing, and you’re ready. But wait, what’s this? A new idea. A new idea that is moving you. An idea with a limited potential readership and no relevance to anything you’re working on and no chance for actual publication or income generation except that, you’re sure of this, that once you’re done with it there will somehow be a leak to the right people who will nominate it, and of course it will win, the Pulitzer prize that it so rightly deserves. Yes! This is the idea. This is the one you must complete, put down, harvest from start to finish. Now take a deep breath and go back to step one.