Don't read this
November 4, 2009
I waited to post this today until your daily writing was done. Merlin Mann summarizes all you have to know about writing today in the pep talk and warning he posted to his blog. Some authors have a top ten list, Merlin himself had top five lists for a long time, PragPub’s top ten list goes all the way to 11.
Today, Merlin’s list stops at one. He gives us the "Top 1 Habits of Amazing Writers". Coming in at number 1, "They write."
In fact, that’s really the habit you are trying to develop this month. You are trying to learn to show up every day and write. If you can do that for a month, you can do that for longer. It takes somewhere between four and six weeks to really establish a habit. For the first few weeks you are going to fight with demons — both friendly and not. We’ll start with the friendly demons tomorrow and move on to the not so friendly over the weekend.
They should also read and think and have rich lives — but there are people who read and think and have amazing lives who aren’t writers. The way you tell the difference is that writers write.
One of the hardest things to do as an editor is to cancel a book in progress. There are lots of reasons to cancel a book but the easiest marker for me is that the writer isn’t writing. He’s got different plans for reorganizing his work or for where he’s taking the book next but week after week he’s got nothing to show me.
Believe it or not, this can be a very hard book to cancel. I start to have the conversation with the author that they haven’t been writing lately and they assure me that whatever reason they had for not writing is no longer the case.
It’s ok, I tell them. This book just isn’t a priority for you. How do I know? Easy. You’re not writing right now. You’re not bad for not writing. You’re just not writing.
Anyway, Merlin is both helping and hindering you. He tells you to write and then he provides you with some amazing resources for writers. How can you write when there’s all this reading you could be doing. I love a lot of his links and I own them and I’ve used them instead of writing myself. Let’s just say that now, I save these books for a room in the house where I don’t do my writing and leave it at that.
Now before Merlin provides you with all of the reading you could be doing instead of writing he cautions you that when you are reading about writing you are not writing. He also points out that every good book on writing includes five points which he details — these are points that work well with NaNoWriMo and this with PragProWriMo.
I’ll come back to some of these points next week, but for now I want you to focus on just one thing.
This post originally appeared in the Pragmatic Life blog.