Fightin’ Words // On Not Writing

If you’re not writing, then you’re not a writer. There. I said it. Fight me.In college, I had this friend who fancied himself a writer. At parties, he’d get trashed and go on about the flaws of politics and postmodern art, vowing that his next novel would not only sell a million copies, it would challenge and inspire an entire generation. If you listened long enough, he would tout his work as the greatest modern epic since Ulysses and the best American satire since Huckleberry Finn.

Too bad he hadn’t written it yet.

“It’s all up here,” he would say, pointing at his head. “All of it. I just don’t have time to write it down. Besides, it’s not the right time to release it. People just aren’t ready for it yet.”

I bet you’ve had friends like that.

I have three problems with my friend’s bullshittery. So let’s break it down, point by drunken point.

1. It’s not all up there.

I blog on a weekly schedule, not unlike South Park’s six-day production cycle. On Saturday, I list all of my blog ideas in a Trello kanban. The Trello is broken into five categories: “Researching,” “Writing,” “Editing,” Making Graphics” (this one’s new!), and “Published.” As I complete each production phase, I move the entry along the board. I aim to finish researching by Monday evening, drafting by Wednesday, and editing by Friday. The post goes live at 8AM on Saturday. By the time it goes live, I’m already finished scheduling my next post.

Trello kanban
This is my blog kanban. I use it to schedule and track my posts. The more I organize, the more likely I am to get something done.

When I started blogging, I assumed I could sit at my desk, write, and words would just flow out onto the page. Heck, I even wrote that posting might make for a good 15-minute warm up.

Oh, how wrong I was.

15-minute posts lead to inconsistent content. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice my first month’s posts are irregular, sporadic, and inconsistent. Tone and narrative voice waver between entries, and details tend to slip through the cracks.

Simply put, it’s not all “up there.” It just isn’t that easy. Good writing takes forethought–lots of it.

2. If you don’t have time now, then you definitely won’t have time later.

15-minute posts are bad, but a 15-minute session of focused, dedicated writing is the only way to get anything done. Or, at least, it’s the only way my students can get anything done.

MC_notes
It took 15 minutes to fill these two 2×3 pages. That 15-minute brainstorming session fueled “Morning Coffee” for almost two months.

I used to teach freshman composition at the local state university. Almost all classes encouraged students to write for 15 minutes every class. Most teachers let their students free write about anything they wanted; I required mine to draft their essays. Each class, I would write a specific, relevant prompt on the board, and my students would work on it without distraction. You’d be surprised how many of them had finished their drafts by the draft deadline; you’d be shocked how many claimed to have finished their papers a week before the final due date. While other students crammed, mine tweaked spelling errors and fixed tense issues.

Anyone can focus on a task for 15 minutes. Trust me. I have a hard time finishing a Netflix episode, and even I can do it.

Every time I write, I turn off all music, silence my phone, and set a timer. When that timer’s done, I’m done. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to keep this blog going.

3. The only time to release anything is right now.

Planning and drafting aside, the only time to get your work out there is now. There is no excuse. But don’t take my word for it. Take Machiavelli’s:

After reflecting on what I have said above, I have wondered whether the present times were right for a new prince, and whether there were elements that would give an opportunity to a wise and virtuous one to introduce a new order of things which would bring honour to him and good to the people of this country. It appears to me that so many things now come together to favor a new prince that I never knew a time more suitable than the present. (The Prince, 41)

In sum, there is no ‘perfect time’ to write or publish. The stars and planets will not align for you; no Muse will bestow you with inspiration. You have to reach out and take it. There is no moment more appropriate than right now. So get up and do it.

What else do you have going on, anyway?


Anywho, that’s me. Thanks again for all of your support. You guys are the best.

Without you, I don’t know where I’d be. Probably at my desk, thinking about writing a blog.

Stay weird,

Jake

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Jake

Marketing Strategist at The University of Alabama.

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