For the past few months I’ve been experiencing a dry spell in my writing because I’ve been busy promoting my latest book “Write Now!” What it all boils down to is I haven’t been writing. It’s time to start again.
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Joseph Sutton wrote an essay each week for a year about the writing process that became a book called *MY WRITING YEAR: Making Sense of Being a Writer*
I looked at my e-mail today and found that a literary agent in New York is interested in reading a hundred pages of a novel I finished revising for the umpteenth time a few months ago.
There have been many times I’ve looked out the window of my study and said to myself, “It sure would be nice to get outside on a beautiful day like this.” Oh, I’ve played hooky a number of times over the years, but most of the time I do what writers do, and that is to sit at my desk and write.
I have a mantra that goes, “Write, Revise, Advertise and Exercise.” Write means to write in my journal or create a story. Revise—to rework an essay, story or novel. Advertise—to get the word out about my website and my latest book Write Now! Exercise—to move my muscles and keep my blood flowing so I won’t be a burden to anyone in old age.
If you wait for inspiration to start writing, you might have to wait weeks, months or even years. The first thing you have to do is sit your ass down and start writing, or write standing up like Hemingway did.
Just write, don’t stop, keep your pen or fingers moving and don’t look back until you’re finished.
Me, I love to write. What am I doing today to make myself a better writer? I’m writing.
I write to encourage people who want to write but who don’t have the confidence in themselves to put words on paper.
Pen and paper are a must at all times, even on your nightstand, because you never know when an idea will come a-knockin’.
I chose to become a writer in 1969 because I felt compelled to write a novel–A Class of Leaders. I wanted to share it with the world and thought the world, without a doubt, would embrace it and make me famous.
For the past few years I find that writing my first drafts flow much better while sitting in a coffeehouse, library or even my car. I’m writing this piece in my 9-year-old Toyota Corolla parked at Ocean Beach, San Francisco, 100 yards from the Pacific Ocean.
I go over a piece–an essay, poem, story or chapter–maybe 10, 20, 50 or 100 times before it becomes a final draft. I constantly go over a piece because I want the reader to understand what I’ve written.
That’s what writing is all about–confidence. Confidence is so important, especially in the writing process. When you have confidence you write freely and loosely, you’re not worried about an outcome, you’re putting words down for the joy and pleasure of it.
Writing has made me walk and walking has made me write. When I quit the teaching profession at the age of 29 to become a writer, it never occurred to me that I would also become a walker.
It’s 9:45 in the evening. I’m sitting at my computer to write about time and the writing process. I usually don’t write around this time of the day.
What is a writer to do in a world that is trying its best, day and night, to stop him from sitting down and writing? I’m talking about interruptions like phone calls, the doorbell ringing, errands, appointments, noises and chores.
“I don’t understand why people call them deadlines. The word should be lifelines.”
So how am I able to write with those two chatterboxes still going non-stop behind me?
I sometimes write as fast as I can, as I’m doing now, to see what my subconscious will let out of the cage.
Today a person can find any type of quotation on the Internet within seconds. I sometimes browse the Internet to see what other writers have said about writing.
A lot of beginning writers wonder if they’ll ever discover their “voice.” I surely thought the same when I began my writing career.
Where does a writer get material to write about? I can’t speak for other writers, I can only speak for myself. I get my material from my ongoing journal of 40 years. Just by putting words on paper or my computer screen, an idea or incident might enter my thoughts.
Sometimes a story idea pops into a writer’s mind while writing or while doing something else. Sometimes it comes from out of the blue in real life.
Sometimes I say to myself, “I want to write about the writing process except I don’t know what to say. I’m lost. Here I am trying to inspire others to write and I can’t think of anything to write. What’s wrong with me?”
Since I became a writer 40 years ago, I’ve had to dish out a lot more money than I’ve taken in…I would be a millionaire today if I made a dollar for every hour I’ve spent writing my novels, short stories, essays and poems. But I’m still happy I chose to be a writer.
I know that most writers have to work at another job to survive in this world, which leaves them little time and energy to write. I’m one of the extremely fortunate ones who has the time and energy to write. So let me fill you in on a typical day in this writer’s life.
What does the writing process mean to you? “It means you shouldn’t be afraid of your internal voice.” What do you mean by that? “What I mean is, trust yourself, trust your voice. Don’t even try pleasing others—please yourself, first and foremost.”
Is there a secret to writing? “Yes, of course there is.” What is it? “It can be summed up in four little words.”
Which instrument is best for writing a first draft—the pen or the computer? The pen, for me, is a little more physical, visceral, tangible, tactile. I believe I can dig deeper into my mind and explain myself better with a pen.
There’s a quote taped to my desktop computer that’s staring me in the face this very second. It comes from a writer who’s influenced me more than any other writer—William Saroyan. I personally got this quote from him when I accidentally ran into him at a corner grocery store in San Francisco many years ago: “All writing is connected to writing.”
My cousin Ben called me a few days ago. “Joe,” he said, “I’ve read everything you’ve written about writing on your website. What you’re really doing is writing for writers. Why don’t you write something for us non-writers.
Today is Tuesday. I really don’t feel like writing because I have a headache, sore throat, a bad cough and I’m weak. Here’s a conversation I had with myself before I sat down at my desk today:
I’m going to take a ramble into the crevices of my mind to see what comes out of me. Here I go: I’m sitting in a coffeehouse. It’s almost 6 p.m., which means I’ll arrive home later than I want to, but I swore I wouldn’t let my pen stop until I finished writing at least two pages.
While teaching at Fremont High School in South Los Angeles, I wrote in my journal, every day, for four months, and used those notes to produce a novel about a white teacher in a black ghetto high school. I called the book A Class of Leaders.
Many writers have asked me, “What should I do if I have to write something, or feel like writing something, but don’t know what to say?” My answer to them is, “An idea will eventually come to you if you keep on writing.”
There are many reasons why writers write. Anger, Revenge, Happiness, Depression, Redemption, Synchronicity, Discovery, Beauty, to Inform, to Inspire, to Entertain…and the list can go on and on why writers write.
I spent a great deal of time revising “Week 36—The Complete Story.” I wanted you, the reader, to understand exactly what I was trying to convey. It was a complex piece that I needed to make as clear, as interesting and as true as possible. So I revised, revised and kept revising until I was almost completely satisfied with what I had written. I don’t know if I’ll ever be 100% satisfied with that piece.
… the best way to write is to write as swiftly as you can without looking back. Read what the following writers have said on this subject.
Some writers never send their stories or articles to magazines, nor do they query agents or editors about their book manuscripts. Why? They’re afraid of rejection. They keep their creations to themselves instead of taking a chance on getting published.
A lot of people are hesitant to write because they feel that every word has to be perfect the first time out, that whatever they write is like taking a test in school. In short, they think writing is a chore. This is a fallacy.
My editor is a man who puts a flame to my ass, which makes me want to jump, shout and start doing. Since I haven’t had an offer from an agent or publisher, he wants me to self-publish *A Class of Leaders* and *Highway Sailor.* “You should publish everything you’ve written,” he told me, “otherwise what’s the point?”
I’m trying to get you to stop procrastinating and start writing that story, essay, poem or book that’s been on your mind for God knows how long. I believe whatever a writer writes is worth saying. So get to it, right now, this very minute. Stop what you’re doing and start writing.
I contend that a real writer doesn’t write when he feels like it, he writes five, six, seven days a week because writing is his occupation, not a hobby.
I believe getting feedback for your writing is necessary. It’s a good idea to have someone else read your work before typing up a final draft and sending it out.
It is now possible for writers to present their work on the Internet, not only in written form but in audio-visual form as well.
A few years back my friend in Portland, Steve Carey, told me about a woman who went to different coffeehouses, put a stack of her books on a table while she wrote in her journal, and sold her books that way. I finally got up the nerve to do that today.
Did you ever proofread the galleys of your own book before it was published? It’s boring—until you find a typo, otherwise known as a mistake.
Since it’s a few weeks before a new year begins, here’s a list of my writing resolutions: (1) Set deadlines/lifelines for myself if I want to be a productive writer…
I vowed to write an essay each week on the writing process. I found out that no matter how I was feeling or whether I was clueless as what to write, I was going to finish a piece on the writing process—and I did it. Here’s the secret: I set a deadline for myself.
Today I looked for “writing process” quotes on the Internet and found six of them. To make it lucky number seven, I’m adding my own quote at the end. And so, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado…
In “Week 8 – Why I Write” I wrote down 16 reasons why I write. I’m adding ten more to this week’s entry.
I promised myself I would write an essay each week for a whole year on the writing process. I’m extremely happy that I’ve met my goal.