I was ruminating on how many writerly things I get in my email inbox every day. I’m signed up for notices from Poets & Writers, Goodreads, Writerland, and She Writes, not to mention the writing blogs I follow. Daily, I get posts exclaiming “50 Contests with Deadlines This Month,” “The Latest on Literary Magazines and What They’re Publishing,” “Top-Five Must-Reads for Spring” and “How to Balance Your Writing with Everything Else.”
Why? Well, time, of course; if I read everything that came into my inbox I’d be completely overwhelmed.
And then there’s, you know, guilt, shame, and discouragement. I feel sometimes like all of these emails, well-meaning as they are, just serve to outline further the uphill battle I’m waging as a writer. I don’t want to read about how to balance my writing with everything else; I’m the expert on (not) balancing my writing. And I’m not calculating enough (organized enough?) to look at what lit mags are publishing and then write for them. I never have been. I write what I write, then I send it out. It may not be the best strategy, but it’s the only one I’ve got. And whenever the word “agent” appears in one of these posts, I get the heebie-jeebies and have to do a breathing exercise.
But I have to confess that I did read this article, on She Writes, by Gemma Burgess: How to Finish the Damn Thing.
The title totally cracked me up, and I thought, maybe she’ll have an insight for me, me who is now on her 40th revision of a memoir that is really, seriously, almost—but not quite—done. Her two solutions are:
1. Astonish me–introduce a shocking element; and
2. Sit down and do it (you jerk). [I added that part about the jerk.]
The first piece of advice really interested me. But since I’m not writing a novel, and I can’t really introduce a shocking element, like, say, that Ben is really a woman (he’s not), the first piece of advice didn’t help me. (But if you’re trying to finish a novel, by all means, go for astonishment.)
The second piece is, of course, the best advice of all: “Once you’re sitting down, don’t do anything else. Don’t tweet. Don’t blog. Don’t Pin. Don’t go on Facebook. Don’t read. Don’t watch TV. Don’t cook. Don’t make social plans. Just turn everything off, throw something unexpected into your manuscript and stay there till your characters have dealt with it.”
Great advice. Now see above, “How to Balance Your Writing with Everything Else.”