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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

“'Writing Begets Writing.'
If you're stuck on a difficult scene, write it anyway.
Write it badly. Write it in verse. Write it as a journal entry, a Dennis Miller rant. If you're frustrated at being stuck, write about that. I don't care. But write.
If you have angry, self-critical feelings, give them to a character in your story. If there isn't a likely candidate, invent one. There IS one, anyway: you. Your anguish, doubt, fears and frustrations are as vital and elemental to what you're writing as any character or plot point.” —Dennis Palumbo


The first and most important step is to get words on the page. Trick yourself any way you need to, to get the first sentence written. Sometimes, when I’m having a particularly hard time, I skip a few lines and start typing without indenting, without capitalization or punctuation. I just blather on for a bit, hunting for a loose corner to start picking at. Eventually, I’ll hit my stride and the writing will take off, no longer needing me to push it, but instead, pulling me along. When I finally pause to look over what I’ve written, I notice that at some point, I’ve started punctuating, indenting, creating paragraphs and dialogue without being aware of it.

Occasionally, the writing won’t transcend the struggle. I push it uphill for the duration of my writing time, save the file and find something else to do. When I come back to read it the next day or week, I realize there are some great threads I can follow, even if the writing itself is cumbersome and heavy.

Once in a great while, when I go back to read a piece I know I struggled through, I don’t find any particular gems. But even then, I recognize that the time wasn’t wasted. It was simply a day for exercising the writing muscle. Which is still a worthwhile pursuit.

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.” —Anne Lamott

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