QUESTION: How do you write so much?

Some of my frequently-asked questions will be answered directly on the FAQ page. Others will get their own blog post, to which I will link from the FAQ page. This is one of the latter.

How do you write so much?

This is the first question ever to qualify as “frequently-asked”,  I’m afraid the primary answer is going to disappoint you: basically, I write so much because I do almost nothing else.

Seriously, apart from a handful of filler activities — I practice yoga, I pet my cat, I occasionally eat and shower, and there’s this guy who I live with who I sometimes talk to — I spend all day, every day, putting words together. I write from eight in the morning until five or six (or seven or nine or ten) at night. I say yes to almost every freelance gig I’m offered. And… (whispers) I get paid for it. Which, to be honest, is a big help. You know how people look at Scarlett Johansson and say, “Well, if someone gave me millions of dollars to look hot on camera, my buttocks would probably be ridiculously toned, too!”? Not that freelance writing pays millions of dollars (HAHAHAHAHAHA, OH, THE VERY IDEA), but having an incentive to work — and an editor who will virtually beat the shit out of me if I miss my deadline — is nearly as important as having the time to do it.

HOWEVER. The magic combination of time and incentive aren’t luxuries available only to writers who get paid to write. So for those looking for advice on being productive and getting the words out, here’s what I have to say.

Make writing as easy and comfortable as possible.

The actual act of writing is hard enough without all the environmental/situational bits being a pain as well. For starters, give yourself a comfortable, accessible, non-inspiration-killing venue in which to write. The more pleasant it is to be in your writing space, the more you’ll want to hang out there; conversely, the more your writing space is covered in spiders and outfitted with a chair that makes your behind ache, the less productive you’ll be. And if there’s anything that seems to get your creative juices flowing — reading a good book, reading a bad book, chatting with a witty friend, taking a walk, having a glass of wine — then do that thing. It’s not cheating to catalyze your process with a little outside something-or-other.

Give yourself an incentive.

Obviously, getting money in exchange for your words is the most obvious way to make this happen, but not every incentive is financial. The feedback you get from readers, the spike in traffic from writing a post that gets a lot of links, the satisfaction of expressing yourself in just the right words, even just the sense of accomplishment you get from sitting back and looking at a giant chunk of text and thinking, “Whoa, that came out of me!” — these things feel good. Figure out which of them feel the best, and dangle them in front of yourself like the proverbial carrot when you find yourself curled up in the fetal position, whimpering, and wondering why you’re doing this to yourself.

And finally, put writing first.

Or at least, as close to first as possible. Make time for your writing. Listen to its needs and try to fulfill them. And when your writing calls, answer as immediately and often as you can — no matter what you’re doing, or what you still need to get done. Inspiration has a way of evaporating if not paid attention to, in ways that other things don’t. Or in other words, you won’t forget how to do your math homework if you put it off for a couple hours, and the dishes in the sink will still be there later tonight. But that amazing line you just thought of, the one that perfectly wraps up the chapter you’ve been struggling with for weeks? Wait too long to write it down, and it’ll disintegrate like cheap toilet paper… and chafe just as badly.

So, that’s how I write so much. How do YOU do it?


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