When trying to describe writing, it is quite simple: you put word by word, and it’s done once you are satisfied.
Anne Lamott would say that you put Bird by Bird;
Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.
But is it really that simple? Could this abstract approach be applied to writing?
Many others have also suggested that same perspective when looking at writing as a craft.
For example, Neil Gaiman says:
This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.
Hemingway basically had the same opinion:
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
These people can’t be wrong, or could they?
Technically they are all right. You really sit in front of your writing device, whether it’s a notebook, a typewriter or a computer screen, and all you have to do is leave a trace in a shape of recognizable symbols we know as words.
From my experience, writing is not hard. What is hard is to sit down and type.
Numerous times in my writing career I had bad days; probably more than good ones. A bad day is when I get up early, sit in front of my screen and three hours later I find myself checking YouTube videos on procrastination because I feel guilty for not doing my job. Morning is the only period of the day which I can use for writing, and most often I waste it.
If you ask Steven Pressfield, he would tell you that I am fighting Resistance, like many other creatives, and he is probably right.
The next question is, where do words come from?
Is someone whispering them to us? A muse? A god? Some kind of higher power? Or, they come from inside as a result of our thoughts and thinking?
Whatever your personal belief is regarding the origin of words it still doesn’t make your job, as a writer easier.
If you, indeed, believe that your words come from some higher power, you might have trouble connecting to the source of that power. Let’s say that the god is busy watching cat videos today, or the muse took a vacation and you end up staring at that blank screen waiting for the miracle to happen and you blame on someone else and you feel miserable.
If you think that the words come from yourself, how do you provoke them and how do you pick the right ones, when you are constantly thinking about your job, the bills you need to pay, your significant other, the things you said yesterday and now you regret, and all sorts of other things? These thoughts are blocking the view of the important ones, so how do you reach the right ones? What kind of flashlight do you use to search for them?
How do you find your fountain of thoughts?
Lots of people find meditation very useful. For the others, it’s music, but I would recommend instrumentals because the lyrics might lead you in the wrong direction, but if it works for you, I’m fine with that. Some have writers different morning rituals. Some writers write at night. Some writers engage in running or another type of exercising before writing. The others are lighting a candle, going to a special cafe, sitting in a specific posture, sitting on a specific chair. Aaron Sorkin was using the same old software for decades before he finally switched to Final Draft.
My suggestion is to find whatever works for you to get you in the state of flow. I know you have it. Everybody has it. Anybody can type 1,000 words per hour, or maybe 2,000, that’s not the question. The question is how do you get there? And, the answer is – experiment. Try and fail and try again, and fail again until you finally reach it.