In the course of my cleaning blitz, I unearthed an article that I’d printed off in March, intending to read immediately. Clearly that did not work out for me. However, as I was in major procrastinating mode and as the deadline for the important job ticked ever nearer, I decided that today was the perfect time to finally knock that article over.
It was a series of the top 10 tips for writing by a collection of famous authors – think Margaret Atwood, Elmore Leonard, Roddy Doyle, Jonathan Franzen – and includes everything from ‘get a good accountant’ to ‘don’t open a book with the weather’. (You’ll find it here.)
One tip that comes up regularly – and is ubiquitous in ‘how to write’ guides the world over – is the Write Every Day maxim. At the recent RWA conference, one NY Times bestselling author repeated over and over that she got up, went to the gym, went home, and wrote about 2000 words. Every day. All I could think was that she clearly did not have small people insisting that she attend their assembly/reading/Easter Hat Parade.
I write every day. Some days, I write up to 5000 words a day. More. Unfortunately, these words are not confined to one particular project. Today, for example, I did some work on my important job. Some work on another important job (with a more forgiving deadline). I wrote a blog post. I wrote a letter to Mr6’s teacher explaining that I needed to drag him out of school and off to see a snoring specialist. I wrote three polite emails requesting interviews, one polite email following up a request for an interview, and several other emails organising my social life.
I suspect that this is not quite what the famous authors had in mind.
I think part of my problem can be found in Jonathan Franzen’s number eight tip: “It is doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.”
So I have decided to concentrate on the words of Margaret Atwood (one of my favourite writers): “Take a pencil to write with on aeroplanes. Pens leak.”
See, if more famous authors gave groundbreaking tips like this, we’d all be famous authors.