There you sit, white screen in front of you or empty page before you. Your fingers twitch nervously. It took a lot of courage to get yourself to this moment; you’d put it off, made promises, thought and planned, but now you were finally here.
Maybe you get something on the page, but then it stops. Maybe you get nothing at all. And after a little while, you sigh, and put it all away, save it for another day that never comes.
Every writer knows this moment intimately, and I’m hardly excluded. I’ve started dozens of promising writing projects only to peter out after 500, 1000, even 50,000 words. I’ve plotted out entire novels to never even write the first word. These moments make me feel like a quitter, like I’m not good enough, like I just can’t be a writer – even though I’ve even got published proof that I’ve got what it takes, even though that inner part of me screams in agony when I am not writing.
These thoughts and feelings of the tortured writer soul who cannot get past that initial burst of brilliance are a common, shared experience. There is, however, a cure.
You can’t say, I won’t write today because that excuse will extend into several days, then several months, then… you are not a writer anymore, just someone who dreams about being a writer.
Dorothy C. Fontana
I recently responded to a question on the Empire Avenue Writer’s Community board, “Can you remember one invaluable piece of advice you were given when you first started writing? What was it and why was it so great for you?” That piece of advice, for me, was “Just write. It doesn’t matter what, just write constantly.”
A good analogy comes from the introduction of A Writer’s Book of Days, a book I received for my birthday this weekend: neither a sportsman or a musician only practices their art when they want to perform publicly. Every day, they fill their time with practice. They sing, they toot or pluck, they run and jump, but they do not stop and wait for the day of their performance to actually do what they have set out to do.
Writing practice is what I like to call “unblanking the page.” It’s disciplining yourself to put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, and write. Write without judgment, expectation, or intent beyond getting words on the page. Writing practice isn’t about writing scenes for your great novel (although it may happen in circumstance), or compiling short stories or poetry into an anthology. It’s about taking a kernel, an idea, and going with the emotion, the image, the instinct in your gut and getting it on paper. It doesn’t have to be perfect; it doesn’t have to be good, even. It simply needs to be done: writing must be practiced.
This is a habit I, myself, am out of, despite spending almost every day writing as a freelancer. I write mostly out of rote, but the projects, the dreams, the wanting to go beyond what I do, to improve my skills, does not truly get practiced. So I will be, myself, embarking on the “writing practice” journey. I will write, to write. And that energy, I believe, will empower the greatness of the future.