5 Things Only Serious Writers Do

5 Things Only Serious Writers Do

Reader Comments (51)

  1. It was nice to read this today as I’m having one of those grit-my-teeth-and-just-show-up days.

    One of my favorite writers is Charles Dickens, a prime example of the just show up and do it school. . .

  2. I totally agree with just getting started. There’s been many days when I’ve struggled with getting started, but once I do, the words started flowing smoothly, like a waterfall.
    I’ve also noticed that over time, my writing skills have improved greatly due to getting lots of practice in from writing a lot.

  3. Really appreciated this article today, Kelton. I had just started writing and was feeling the “slog,” but then I took a step back and looked at my “inspired” writing yesterday and realized the quality was basically the same. Fantastic read! Thanks!

  4. I’ve read and heard a lot about practices and techniques to get writing but this is a really nice summary. I also often think of a response T.C. Boyle gave during an appearance at the LA Book Fair a while back. Someone asked him what his “process” is for writing and he said something like this: “I get up in the morning, and there’s the project, and I work on it.”

    • I’m printing this out and tacking it up over my desk, Kelton. (Cuz I gotta shut off the internet, right?!) A ton of great advice here, up to and including it’s time to give my creative writing some serious diamond-making deadlines. (My professional writing deadlines have no issue that way, but I’ve been using them as an excuse to break my creative writing habits.) As always, so appreciate your insight!

  5. Thank you for your words that work! I have already begun, day one, a 10 minute daily writing practice. I found my way to you after asking for blog writing education… I was lead to your article! I am truly excited about this new habit I am forming! Again, thank you for your words that worked!! ~ I will read this often in my next 21 days for sure 😉 J:o)

  6. When I had a weekly column, and deadlines, it was anxiety, anxiety and anxiety at first. Then – and this took time – by consistently meeting that deadline – my confidence grew – and I started to know – no matter what – I would be able to come up with something that would work. This was such a turning point – and only achieved with regularly sitting down, and writing – no matter what – inspiration or not. It was then I started to enjoy writing. Great article – will save.

  7. Really appreciated the insights from professional writers, but I think having support (those coffeehouses and pubs) is crucial too. As a scholar without employment, I find the lack of colleagues to bounce ideas off of and to share early drafts with lead to a “is this really any good?” moment that can be paralyzing to move past.

  8. I’m back into blogging and it feels great. I wrote for years, then turned a lot of my posts into 3 books that have sold over 20,000 copies. Then I stopped. Burn out?

    But blog posts are flooding out of me again and it feels great. I love my little log of my thoughts and experiences.

    Thanks for your article. I enjoyed it greatly.

  9. This turned up on a random “you may be interested in this” feed, which makes it a prime example of my motto, “wisdom is where you find it.” I’ve been writing to entertain others since 1958, without any great commercial success, when my 5th-grade teacher turned me on to the joys of that particular endeavor. The point is that, while anyone who’s been writing for a while has heard all your bullet points, your discussion is original and highly enlightening. I’ve been in a slump for a long time, and my writing now consists of my blog, where I try to aid and encourage new and struggling writers. I’m very selective about what I offer them, and this article will be prominently linked on next Sunday’s post. Brilliant work, sir!

    • Thanks so much Kelton! In my internal struggle to write, your article has definitely set a no return turning point. Most of what you said was like tides in my head and in my heart, coming and going for years, but hardly reaching my fingers… BUT, bringing them all together, you have created a damn for me where I can control them, so now not excuse for not focusing on my fingers, and give my head and my heart a break. Priceless indeed. Thanks a million

    • The pleasure is all mine, thank you for reading and for doing the good work out there. We appreciate all scribes who have a passion for their audiences, no matter the size.

  10. As a professional musician, I have to say that much if not all of this applies to the world of practicing an instrument as well. Lately, I have had a hard time motivating a certain talented student; I’m going to print this out, change every ‘writing’ to ‘practicing,’ and hand it to that student! I often tell students the hardest thing is to get the instrument out and get started! Thanks for the help with this student!

  11. I enjoyed this, Kelton. I especially appreciate the reminder not to wait until inspiration strikes. I have been making more of an effort lately to write out each idea, rather than allowing my inner editor to determine what is good and what is word meatloaf. It’s a joy to discover that something that seemed mundane or even “off” can be cultivated into seismic event! As soon as I turn off my self-editor and get to the business of writing, things seem to fall into place in a powerful way. Cheers!

  12. “Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at the blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.” – Gene Fowler

    You want to write? Sweat blood.

  13. Thank you for this, Kelton. So great to have an inside view of the minds of serious writers. Having written for tv, film and now a tween novel, I feel like a writer-gymnist– doing runs, twists, turns, leaps, and landings in different mediums but it’s all the same routine. Writing is friggin’ writing. You have to be serious about it in order to do it and no one values the work of writers more than other writers. So thank you for validating us “serious writers”.

  14. Kelton, I read this with much interest. Here is another facet in writing. My small readership calls me a storyteller, and clamor for me to compile my narratives in a book. As an architect, I was trained in graphics analysis and composition. I carry the same principles into writing – symmetry, asymmetry, texture, color, contrasts, and per the Elliot Porter photography credo, make all space work while leading the viewer through it.

  15. Stephen King would teach school, leave and go to his second job at a drycleaner, come home to the trailer where he lived with his wife Tabitha and their infant child and then work on a novel called ‘Carrie’. Lord knows he must have been tired more often than not, but in the long run, it seems to have paid off.

    • Great story, also got to chat with this guy a couple times about “grit”:
      “Hugh Howey (bestselling hybrid sci-fi author of Wool) … confided with me about his process:

      ‘Open up the document, turn off the internet, and start writing. If you’re not sure what happens next in the story, skip to the part of the story where you know what is going to happen. Start writing there. Just start writing.’

      My favorite part of his journey to globetrotting literary superstar is that he would write in a broom closet during breaks between his shifts at the bookstore where he worked.”


  16. I believe Andy Weir quoted Stephen King in his book, “On Writing” about not being able to tell the difference between inspired or slogged writing after a week. I’m not sure, however.

  17. Really enjoyed the article. I am very new to writing. About two years ago I took my first screen writing class. For many reasons I have struggled. I stumbled upon some of these rules, though you have brought them into sharp focus. For both a deadline and the idea of thinking smaller, I strongly suggest your readers pick up the book “Think Small” by Owen Service. Coupling your suggestions and the goal setting formula in that, I now know what goal to set and how to do so well.

    Besides the excellent advice you provided, another tool that seems worthwhile is the notebook. Just a little pocket notebook. A pen, of course. Write down observations you find interesting, something you find funny or odd, or ideas that come when walking the dog but will be lost before getting home.

    • Thank you so much for reading, and for the rec’ Torden, will check it out. I always go back to McKee’s Story or Save The Cat!

      I’m a huge proponent of the pocket notebook. I’ve got shoeboxes full 😉

  18. Encouraging. Sometimes, when I am just slogging along and getting those words out it’s hard to remember that not being motivated or inspired does not mean I’m not a “real” writer. This reminds me that it’s okay to say “hey, I wrote exactly three sentences today, but that’s better than not.”

  19. I liked the article, Kelton. I thought about my published writing and I have no idea when I was motivated and when I wasn’t. I know the first few deadlines scared me into writing and by the third chapter it was going pretty well. So, good days writing and bad days writing may produce equally acceptable results. Having deadlines, whether self-imposed or set by others does help you “do the work”. When I was writing my dissertation someone told me that “when waiting for lighting to strike, be at your computer for when it happens.”

  20. Procrastination is a problem for most everyone, especially when the project has no joy in it. We all need a proverbial stick sometimes to get the work done. What we should be doing is looking for the carrot to get us moving. This article is really fantastic for that. Many thanks. I’ll be posting it for daily motivation. I’d add that finding the joy in what and why you are writing is another approach to consider, i.e., what do you get out of the work? What is your carrot for getting it done? Happiness at seeing a byline? A fat freelancer check? A significant portfolio piece? A step closer to completing your book manuscript or screenplay? Routine + carrot (motivation) + a small reward for firing up your computer (anything chocolate is always good), and we’re on our way to viewing writing as rewarding, even on the days when it’s not.

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