Just Get It on the Page

I never get neckties for Fathers’ Day.  My family knows what a waste of money that would be – I probably wear a tie once/year.  Instead, they love to see my eyes light up when they give me a T-shirt with a pithy slogans on it.  I guess their image of me is a bumper.

And since I’m a writer, T-shirts with writing slogans are big.  My wife Kate gets a handful of catalogs just to make sure there’s always something available (she’s a professional organizer, and so she orders in advance.  Probably not something the rest of you have experienced).

Yesterday I wore one that said, “Be careful or you’ll end up in my novel.”  Always get lots of comments.  Even got to talk to 3 new people about my blog.

But my favorite T-shirt to wear to my writers’ groups proclaims: “Even if it’s crap, just get it on the page.”

That seems like such a contradiction.  We all grew up with a least one English teacher waxing eloquent about writers and Inspiration.  Keats hearing the transcendent melody of a nightingale outside his window and writing the poem, “Ode to a Nightingale.”  Coleridge going to sleep in an opium haze and dreaming the imagery of “Kubla Khan.”

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/A stately pleasure-dome decree

But I’ll share a secret with you.   The biggest difference between people who have written a book and people who always dreamed of writing a book, maybe even started it two or three times, but never actually managed to finish, is this: people who actually write books don’t wait until they’re inspired to write.  They sit down and write, even if when they’ve finished for the day they realize that what they’ve written is too bad to salvage and end up throwing it away.

Back when I was working for a living, I wrote over lunch.  1 hour, every day.  You can’t believe how much you can get done in an hour a day.  If you practice guitar an hour a day, you’ll be good in a year.  If you write an hour a day, you can finish a novel in a couple of years (depending on how much you have to throw away).

When I would tell people how I worked, they were always astonished.  “Oh, I could never do that.  I’d have to be in the mood.”

You’d be amazed.  On a typical day, it would take me about 2 minutes to go from engineering mode to author mode.  About how long it took to read what I’d written the day before.  The characters were all there, eager to get on with the story.  While I was using my left brain to solve logical type problems, they were all drinking tea – well, some of them were drinking whiskey – and playing cards in my subconscious, waiting for me to get back to them.

Even if it’s crap, just get it on the page.

even if it's crap



7 thoughts on “Just Get It on the Page

  1. It’s so true. It’s not about the starting of a book. It’s about finishing. You know what’s funny? And I’m going to go back to something you mentioned the other day about being a pants-er versus being a plotter.
    When I pants a book, it never seems to get wrapped up. I end up all over the place. But now that I have started plotting. I love it. The only problem is that after I plot, a couple of things happen.
    1. Because I get to know my characters better, I find that I’m being untrue to their nature in some of the options I may try to choose for them. So then I implement what I know they would hold to be true, and damn if it doesn’t change the book somewhat.
    2. If I detail too much plotting then I feel “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt) and I get bored with it. So I have to sit back and let it become “new” to me.

  2. “Even if it’s crap, just get it on the page.” Love it! Now where can I get that t-shirt?! LOL And I’m a pants-er big time. Plotting gives me chills just thinking about. LOL I guess you have to find what works for you and run with it. 🙂

  3. True, True. Another one I always liked is, “You can fix Crap, you cannot fix a blank page!”

    And I have decided I am a “Plotanster”. I try to follow the original idea, but by the time it’s done the finished bears little – if any – resemblance to what I had in mind.

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