So I’m writing a novel. At least, I’m trying to. Off the top of my head, I’d say that the biggest obstacle has been finding the time, but that’s not 100% true.
Indeed, I’m always strapped for time. Between my corporate freelance writing and editing “day job,” taking care of the kids, and my volunteer responsibilities, I’m pretty damn busy. I usually have at least one outstanding client project, so whenever I have a few minutes to write, I feel like I should be working on that.
But lately, the other equally big obstacle has been deciding what to write about. I have the general idea of my story, but I’m blocked on a few things so that’s making it hard to work on the manuscript. It’s making it hard to work on this blog too, and any other non-paid writing projects, for that matter.
Many published authors, when asked how to conquer this issue, have said some version of “Well, you just have to keep writing.” Usually, my reaction is some version of “Easy for you to say, Published Author.”
During the last few weeks, I’ve been working on some home improvement projects (more distractions!), and while doing that, I’ve been listening to The Nerdist podcasts. The Nerdist is a project by Chris Hardwick, a former MTV host who wanted to write and talk about sci-fi/fantasy TV, movies, comics, cartoons, and pretty much all other nerdy entertainment. He’s got a blog, the podcasts, a Youtube channel, TV specials, and oh yeah–he wrote a Nerdist book. Basically, rather than waiting for the entertainment job to come to him, he invented an entertainment job that he’d love and uses technology brilliantly to get it to the masses. And he’s really funny.
So I was listening to a podcast of one of his live shows and an audience member asked Hardwick how he gets past writer’s block. What he said was, more or less, “Well, you just have to keep writing,” but he said it like this:
“You have to sit down and just force yourself to write and it doesn’t matter what comes out of you, you just have to get the wheels turning. Even if you spend an hour writing shit, it’ll get the wheels turning so that later you will be struck by the good idea that you’re looking for.
“So never let the excuse of, like, ‘I don’t have anything to write about’—just fucking sit down, even if it’s just gibberish— ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’—doesn’t matter. Just fucking write stuff to get it out so you can keep the machine greased. Because what’ll happen is that you’ll start to get afraid to write if you don’t do it, ’cause you’ll be like, ‘I don’t ever have anything to say.’ So you just have to force yourself to sit down let your fingers start moving and it’ll unstick the wheels and you’ll write.”
For some reason, that hit me. Maybe it’s all the cuss words? Maybe it’s because I love The Nerdist and worship Hardwick and his crew as pioneers in new media? I don’t know. But for whatever reason, it hit me. I need to keep the machine greased. I need to not worry about “wasting time” writing material that I won’t keep (which is something I really try to avoid when I’m getting paid by the hour).
I need to just fucking write stuff.
Beginning Monday, I’m going to commit to writing at least three pages a day, even if it turns out to be gibberish, just to unstick the wheels. And I’m writing it down to make sure I really do it.