How to pout and improve your writing at the same time

OK, these writing suggestions are a little basic, I know, but I would like to point out that most of us are stuck at home in our pjs, not living the high life at BEA. So maybe we need to learn a few new things.


::reaches for the caviar-stuffed potato skins::

What would you add to the list?

Who was going to make the seven-layer bean dip? I can’t find it anywhere.

21 Replies to “How to pout and improve your writing at the same time”

  1. Since I’m not meeting people and breathing on them at BEA (pout,pout,pout) I’m rebelling by eating lime and garlic flavored pistachios.

  2. Adding to the list of writing suggestions, sort of

    It’s not a get-the-writing-done tip, really, but in her book, Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty instructs that if you are going to procrastinate, make yourself do something useful. If I procrastinated but now have clean clothes and dishes, I’m less likely to beat myself up about it. If I procrastinated but now have read every single internet comment on last night’s SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE, I broke the procrastination rule. Unless I’m working on a book about televised dance competitions. I tend to get more writing done when I follow this rule, because while internet surfing usually beats chopping my way through writer’s block, writing beats doing the dishes. And to complete my rock-paper-scissors of procrastination, doing the dishes beats…nothing. I can’t think of anything.

  3. I would say don’t go for a walk just when you get stuck … go for a walk (or bike ride, or yoga session, or run) regularly. Writer does not live by keyboard alone.

  4. I’d never tried this until now, but it turns out that writing out of order actually works. I think I might complete my current work in progress. I’ve started over fifteen novels and have only completed two. And they weren’t very long ones.

    But all that writing did count for something, because each story I start is better than the last. (I’ve now written over 100 000 words. And yes: I counted. I ignored my homework one day to count how many words I’d written approximately. Result: 104 573 words. Now it’s got to be 110 000.)

    Another trick when you’ve got writer’s block: thinking about your story at night, in bed. For the past five years I’ve had trouble falling asleep because of this. I can’t switch my brain off. I just keep thinking and thinking and thinking.

    I also talk to my characters; they help me figure stuff out.

    Sometimes it’s characters from novels I liked; in this case they serve as therapists. I ramble about my life, in my head of course, and two hours later I’m still wide awake but I’ve made interesting conclusions. Anyone else do this? If not, I swear I’m not mentally ill. I’m just a writer. It’s a whole other thing.


    PS: I’m Luckynumbr22 on twitter. You’ll see MUCH shorter messages there.

  5. I would say, keep paper with you everywhere. Half the time I think of major character dialogue while playing sudoku. You can guess what my sudoku book looks like. Even if its a stack of sticky notes or a little notebook, its good to keep paper around when the mind is at rest. If it didn’t put other people in danger, I would keep a notebook open in the car.

  6. I’m going to BEA and I’m very sorry that you aren’t. But if it’s any consolation I bought a three day pass and can only go for one. And might not even be able to go for the whole day. bargle. 🙂 Have fun with the potato skins.

  7. Got this trick from a musician friend: don’t tell yourself you have to write for an hour or two hours or even fifteen minutes. My minimum daily writing is two minutes. Anyone can do two minutes. Now once I’ve got myself sitting down with the piece in front of me and my fingers on the keyboard and the story “open” in my mind, it’s often easy to write for more than two minutes. It’s getting over than initial hurdle that’s hard. Also, if I do end up writing for only two minutes, then the next day it’s still only been one day since the last time I wrote. That keeps the initial hurdle smaller as well.

  8. ::poutpoutputs with you::

    My writing suggestion: Just start. It doesn’t have to be good, it just has to get on paper. Revision can fix any badness, but there’s no cure for nothing on the page.

    Can you pass the potato skins?

    ::hands you a feta stuffed cherry tomato::

  9. Amen. I once cut out my usual twenty-minute walk for a couple of months and found I got more than a bit grumpy. I’m always reading of how authors like to go for long walks, or start the day with a walk, and a recent health article said a ten minute walk gets the jangles out and reduces stress and another ten minutes gives a better mood and clarity. Whenever I come back from a walk, I have much more energy and focus for writing.

  10. That’s great. I got similar advice from a couple of musicians:

    I used to trick myself. I’d say, “We’re going in to do demos,” but the demos were the records. It would take the performance pressure off. It would give you the psychological notion that you had a second chance.
    – Joni Mitchell

    I didn’t realize at the time that a lot of these recordings would eventually be released. Which was great for me. I’ve always struggled with that – as soon as I think we’re doing something for real, it just freezes me up. My favorite recordings tend to be those kind of uninhibited moments in music that had no idea that they were music.
    – Tom Waits

    The way I do it with writing is I simply tell myself I’m making notes, sketching out ideas. If I thought it was actually part of a finished work, I’d tense up and write like I thought I’m supposed to, rather than simply thinking things out in my own way, knowing I can always change every word.

  11. Thanks – it’s actually a place I can see from where I walk every day.

    I glanced at your site, and a big congrats on THE SECRET YEAR. I’ll definitely look for it when it comes out.

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