“Routine: Before you start, figure out a few slots of time, preferably about three hours each, when you will write. It does not have to be everyday, though there are some huge benefits to writing everyday, and I’ll get to that when I write about writing the first draft – but for now, assign yourself pockets of “writing time” every week. And during your writing time, please write. Get your sentences down on paper. If you are like me, it will take you at least half an hour (on the good days) to get started. There will be days that it will take you two hours of your assigned time to even start. Don’t worry too much about this. Just sit down during writing time, and sooner or later you’ll have words on your page.
Discipline: Closely related to routine is discipline. All of you know what it means, and possibly already suspect that the writing life requires lots of it. It does. The biggest part of your discipline will be in getting yourself to sit down and write. Please do it. It’s worth it, I promise.
Place: Find a place to where you’ll be happy to write. If you are lucky enough to have a dining table or a spare room, you’re in business. But cafes are great spots too, and a large chunk of my first draft was written in the Boulangerie in Cole Valley, where I grew plump on the delicious pastries and vegetable croissants. Some of the public libraries – especially the Main branch and the Mission branch are good places. Perhaps you can negotiate with your boss and stay at work for a few hours more to write (Horrible idea, I know, but some claim it works.) For me, the main things I looked for were 1) lots of natural light 2) no music 3) moderately comfortable chairs. Your needs will be different – perhaps like Michelle Richmond, you’ll write while listening to music, but please do me one favor – stick to your spot until it loses its magic.
Feedback: I would strongly suggest that you finish your first draft before you seek feedback. As far as I can tell, everyone but the most annoyingly talented write awful first drafts. Mine was abysmal. I had no idea about point of view, my characters were laughably cartoonish, my dialogues were cringe worthy. I began to have nightmares that I would die and my friends would discover my first draft and spend the rest of their lives laughing at my terrible writing. Thankfully, that did not happen. I lived. I wrote a second draft that was much better, and a third draft that I was nearly proud of, and after my fourth I was ready to talk to agents. It worked out. And it will work out for you, too. But seeking feedback while you write your first draft is asking for trouble. Your tactful friends will lie so unconvincingly that you will grow even more insecure about your writing, and your honest friends will be so critical that you will stop writing. This last thing happened to me. I was so undone by such extreme and harsh critique that not only did I stop writing, but I was in so much physical pain that I could barely walk. There will be lots of time for feedback later, after your first draft is done. But for now, just write as often as you can.”
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