Thursday, May 5, 2011

Encouragement for the Incremental Writer

The Spanish writer Corin Tellado wrote over 4000 novels in her lifetime. She lived to be 82 years old. Now I'm no math wiz, but by my calculations, she needed to write 48 books per year--including when she was first born--in order to tally that many books. Since she actually started writing when she was 19 years old, that cranks the total up to 63 books per year!! In other words: she was constantly writing, probably through meals and not taking siestas. And the woman had two children.


Why do I bring this up? Because most of us will never be even remotely this prolific. We do not have the free time to write ceaselessly. We have responsibilities. We have lives. Ok, well most of us have lives. But just as true, most of us would love to sell 400 million books just like Corin Tellado, to touch that many people's lives.

But we have to support ourselves while we write. We have to support families, if we have families. We have to watch The Bachelor every Monday evening at 8 PM Eastern Standard Time. As an old professor of mine wisely put it, "The world doesn't want us to write." But yet if we don't, Churchill's black dog will come sniffing for us.

So how to reconcile both needs?

I am an incremental writer. This approach works for me. I have decided not to chuck my job (which I like), not to forsake my family (Sherwood Anderson I am not), not to miss the Bachelorette Season 7 featuring Ashley Hebert, the plucky dental student from Philadelphia with a million dollar smile and enough insecurity to float a flotilla of Navy Seals ten times around the circumference of the Earth. I will not do it. I've drawn a line: I love writing, but I love my life even more.

So I write one hour per day. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I have never published anything. Hard-core writers will scoff at this. "Ha," I can hear William Faulkner chiding from beyond the grave. "It took me an hour just to drink fifteen mint juleps and stretch my writin' hand." Whatever, Bill. It's all I can handle. It may take me two/three years to finish a book, and that's painful to actually write, ouch--but it's what has to happen.

You just have to have ultimate confidence in yourself that you WILL finish your book. And the added bonus is that if you only write one hour per day, you don't have time for writer's block. You just simply don't have time for it. Can't shoe-horn it in. Sorry, buddy boy.

And when I say one hour per day, I mean every single day. Some writers write in bursts and then don't write for a day or two. What has two thumbs and writes every single day? This guy.

I know people who feel that they must carve out three hours for writing, who have to feel the whip of inspiration slap them across the face, who have to be sitting in a mountaintop villa in the South of France with a highball in one hand and a Cruella DeVille cigarette holder in the other as a cool wind whistles through the pines to even consider writing.

Not so me. If I can fit in writing for ten minutes here, wedge it in thirty minutes there, find fifteen spare minutes way over there, I'll do it. Usually I write during my lunch hour, so I get an unbroken period of time, but some days don't shape up that way. Still I write. So I don't want you to give yourself excuses for not writing anymore. You can do it. You just have to jump on opportunities every day to do so. You have to. Now do it!

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