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{for writers}



A Writer's Morning

5:30 a.m. Wake Up-New Commitment to Morning Writing Time
6:00 a.m. Wake Up Again
6:35 a.m. Dog Breathing in Face. Get Up
6:40 a.m. Stumble Down Stairs
6:45 a.m. Make Coffee; Wave to Morning-Person Spouse Rushing Out Door
6:50 a.m. Nuke Bran Muffin
6:52 a.m. Overnuke Muffin; Give to Dog
6:58 a.m. Gulp Coffee
7:00 a.m. Brighten; Feel Creative
7:04 a.m. Have Inspiration
7:05 a.m. Rush to Home Office
7:06 a.m. Wait for Computer to Boot; Begin to Lose Inspiration
7:07 a.m. Grab Pen and Paper Scrap to Save Idea
7:08 a.m. Pen is Dry
7:09 a.m. Begin to Repeat Thought like Mantra So Not to Forget It
7:10 a.m. Find Working Pen; Quickly Scrawl Idea
7:11 a.m. Dog Wants Out
7:12 a.m. Phone Rings; Attempt Not to Answer; Fail
7:13 a.m. Deal with Boring Issue on Phone with Spouse
7:14 a.m. Deal With Spouse Who Does Not Think Issue, Paying a Bill, Is Boring
7:15 a.m. Be Irritated That Spouse Disrespects Your Artistic Impulse
7:16 a.m. Tell Him So; Argue for 30 seconds;Call a Truce (You're Wasting Precious Time)
7:17 a.m. Reassure Spouse You'll Remember to Pay the Damn Bill
7:18 a.m. Hang Up Phone Forcefully to Go Pay Bill
7:19 a.m. Excited About Scrawled Bright Idea...
7:20 a.m. Force Mind Back to Bright Idea; Look for Scrap on Which it is Scrawled: Find it
7:21 a.m. Sit; Computer is Up, Paper Scrap in Hand; All is Right With World
7:23 a.m. Can't Read Scrawl; Turn Scrap Over; Realize Scrap is Important: A Receipt
7:24 a.m. Remember Damn Bill Again; Forget Again
7:25 a.m. Creative High Sinking
7:28 a.m. Pour More Coffee; Let in Dog, Search for/Find Reading Glasses
7:29 a.m. Still Can't Read Scrawl; Close Eyes––Remember…Remember…
7:30 a.m. Begin to Fear Alzheimer's
7:31 a.m. Have Crisis of Identity
7:35 a.m. Calm Down
7:35 a.m. Remember Not Being a Morning Person
7:36 a.m. Have Another Bright Idea; Begin to Type
7:40 a.m. Rewrite
7:44 a.m. Rewrite Again
7:54 a.m. Stare at Screen; Out of Ideas for Rewrite
8:00 a.m. Notice Clock
8:01 a.m. Will Be Late for Meeting/Work/Class: Don't Care: Write. Anything.
8:30 a.m. Hate What You've Written; Delete
8:31 a.m. Curse the Day You Thought You Could Write
8:32 a.m. Write Plausible Excuses for Tardiness
8:35 a.m. Have New Bright Idea; Wish to Spend Time with the Muse
8:36 a.m. $*&!@#!! Can't.
8:37 a.m. Promise to Be Home Early; Burn Midnight Oil

10:00 p.m. Finally back at it. Concentrate.
10:30 p.m. Working....
11:00 p.m. Working....
11:55 p.m. Stare at Screen, Eyes Red; Print Out: Read
11:56 p.m. Not Bad
11:57 p.m. Not that Good Either.
11:58 p.m. Despair; Realize You'll Never Recoup Big Chunks of Life Spent Wooing Words
11:59 p.m. Remember the Process is the Journey; the Journey is to the Soul.


MIDNIGHT: Set Alarm for 5:30 a.m.

Lynda's Writing Advice Column

Column #1: READ

Want to be a writer?

• Read.
• Read.
• Did I mention you should read?
• Read cereal boxes, read ads, read old magazines in waiting rooms, read good books, read bad books, read everything, anytime, anywhere.
• Read so much your mind's awash with words.
• Read for love.
• Read for money.
• Read to swell your vocabulary.
• Read to outspell spellchecks.
• Read to quote good writers.
• Read to become a quotable writer.
• Read different genres; stretch; discover.
• But be free from book-finishing guilt.
• Can you put it down? Put it down.
• Ponder why you could put it down: avoid.
• Know librarians and bookstore people, a reader's (and writer's) best friends.
• So many books, so little time.
• Do not speed-read; eschew such heresy.
• Slow-read. Savor. Study.
• Grasp the trick of each sentence. Syntax is a beautiful thing.
• Imagine your own words on the printed page.
• Your favorite book may be the next one.
• That life-changing book is in your pile.
• Who would you be without the books you've read?
• To be a writer, first:
• Read.


Column #2: WRITE

Want to be a writer?

•Sounds obvious? You'd be surprised.
•Dreaming is not doing: DO.
•Where to start?
•Decide WHY.
•Flannery O'Connor: "I write to discover what I know."
•You: "I write to [your answer here.]"
•Write because you can't not write; if it's not love, it's not right.
•Be Flannery.
•See the journey as the destination.
•Find your inner [Insert fav author's name here].
•Then find your own literary self.
•Play with words. IS writing play? If not, stop.
•Don't rush to a computer; you'll be there soon enough, long enough. (Trust me.)
•Buy a little bound notebook; savor the move of thought to pen to paper.
•Know the joy of the jot. (See column #3)
•Journal but not obsessively (unless you're in therapy).
•Keep a diary (but with a key).
•Blog (but remember the internet is for everyone forever more).
•Do all 3 if only to learn to grasp the concept of audience.
•Apprentice yourself:
•Take a class.
•Start a writing group.
•Write short pieces; submit.
•Collect rejection slips with gusto.
•Improve. (And you will.)
•Get going putting it all into words.
•So you want to be a writer? There's only one way:



Column #3: FAIL

Want to be a writer?

•A lot.
•Rejoice in failure (okay, that's going too far):
•Be okay with failure.
•How to get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.
•Failing is practice.
•Like a stuntman, do it without getting hurt.
•Like a stuntwoman, learn the right way to fall.
•Like baseball, there's no crying (or at least not for long)
•There's only the stubbornness to see failure as prelude...
•Tattoo this somewhere: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
•Research says it takes 10,000 hours to perfect a skill.
•See every rejection as notes on how to get there quicker.
•Make failing work for you.
•Expect it. Learn from it.
•99% of writing is rewriting; all but 1% then is failing.
•Get it?
•Don't let it get you. In order to pass, let yourself:


Column #4: LAUGH

Want to be a writer?

• Laugh.
• Take your craft seriously but not yourself.
• Lighten up.
• Even the moodiest writing often has comic relief:
• Billy Crystal and Robin Williams once played Hamlet's gravediggers.
• Humor is one of the sharpest tools in your writing box:
• Use it sparingly in your writing soup, like salt.
• But on yourself? Pour it on...
• Pour until you crack yourself up.
• Not a born wit? No worries. Not the point.
• Master the art of self-deprecation. That'll do.
• But don't overdo. Same goes for humor.
• (Unless you're Billy Crystal or Robin Williams.)
• Understand the writing life is tough enough without laughter.
• Brevity may be the soul of wit...
• Laughter is the soul of sanity.
• Cry if you must, but end with laughter.
• Brood if you must, but keep it short.
• Rhino hide is a writer essential, but even rhinos hurt.
• Rejections pierce any hide: Expect it.
• But laugh and you can handle anything.
• Life is too serious not to treat with humor.
• Did you hear the one about the writer who never learned to laugh?
• Died young. And wrinkly. And had not one iota of fun.
• Save the moody darkness for the page.
• Save the literary angst for your book jacket photo.
• But for yourself?
• Laugh.


Column #5: WHINE

Want to be a writer?

•Learn the fine art of the whine.
•Feel paranoid; unappreciated; ahead-of-your-time.
•Take other writers' successes as a personal affront since they're not as good as you (They may not be).
•Spend lots of time at coffee houses expressing this feeling.
•Whine until you're sick of the sound of your own voice...
•Then go out and live.
•Out. Out there. Beyond your door. Away from the vapid glow of your computer screen and comforts of remote controls.
•Build a house with Habitat for Humanity, pick up cans along the highway, walk dogs for cancer, shelve books for the library, read to the blind: You get the picture.
•Offer your way with words to help the cause.
•Get good at it; good for the good.
•Feel on-the-nose appreciated.
•Feel less self-involved yet inspired.
•Take that feeling back to the vapid glow of your computer screen, then...
•Cordone off a no-whine zone: Create.
•Realize most artists aren't appreciated until they die.
•Don't die. Live. Write. Right now. For the sake of it. For the art. For your soul.
•Then and only then, when you feel the urge, as a nice cleansing purge, take a nanosecond and...
•Feel better?


Column #6: JOT

Want to be a writer?

•Jot, jot, jot.
•Jot a lot.
•Give yourself permission to be a writer who respects his/her ideas enough to jot.
•Got a good memory, you say? Famous last words.
•Jot on paper napkins, receipts, magazine page margins (then rip discreetly and pocket.)
•Interrupt conversations if you must. Be self-deprecating, apologetic, or lie like a dog, but jot before the idea flies away.
•Borrow/swipe pens if you must.
•Jot on your arm.
•Text yourself.
•Leave yourself a voicemail.
•Buy one of those tiny Swiss knifes with a pen.
•But jot that thought. Or curse yourself in the morning.
•Forgotten ideas can haunt like ghosts.
•Your creative mind is a fickle thing. The spark may flicker and fade.
•It may not even be a good idea, but if you don't jot, it will become the Idea of the Century, the Bestselling, LifeChanger that got away.
•Who needs that grief?
•So learn the power of the scribble.


Column #7: LISTEN

Want to be a writer?

•Enjoy waiting in line.
•Choose 50 items or less line at grocery store.
•Scan tabloid while listening. Appear nonchalant; be cool.
•But listen.
•Take the crowded bus, the packed train.
•Listen to rude cellphone chatter.
•Train your ear.
•Everything is material because everything's alive.
•Your writing should be alive.
•Specifics: Details spring words to life.
•Don't ask: "Why won't that bird shut up?"
•Ask: "What kind of bird was that?"
•Don't ask: "Why won't that guy shut up?"
•Ask: "What kind of guy says that?"
•Be invisible; be wallpaper, a fly on the wall.
•Feel blood pressure drop when delayed, jostled, waiting.
•Never be bored again.
•You are a spy:
•Shut up. Listen.
•The world is a noisy mess.
•Make it work for you.
•Capture mental soundbites to relay to page, then...
•Revel in the sound of silence:
•Now fill it up with what you've heard.


Column #8: TRAVEL

Want to be a writer?

•Risk geographically. Leave your comfort zone.
•Take long drives.
•Travel back roads away; this will stimulate.
•Travel interstates home; this will meditate.
•Look. Really look. Until you see.
•Travel through the desert at least once.
•Empty your mind: Listen to the whole lot of nothing.
•Think big wordless thoughts, as big as vistas.
•Stop at tourist traps; gawk; buy weird souvenirs.
•Take a long train ride at a window seat at least once.
•Feel oddly connected to the whizzing world outside the window.
•Go out on the ocean beyond sight of land at least once.
•Feel small and yet chest-busting large.
•Wander a foreign city without knowing the language at least once.
•Feel oddly connected to spinning earth outside words.
•Savor the tingle, fear: That's your perspective adjusting.
•Embrace what goes wrong; it's the stuff of your best stories.
•Just don't drink the water.
•Proust: "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes."
•Listen to the guy.
•Shake up your vision: Take a see voyage.


Column #9: REPEAT

Want to be a writer?

•Write something, then do it again. With gusto.
•Work on voice: Clear literary throat.
•Experiment. Write. Delete. Repeat.
•Give your inner smart aleck full rein, then rein it in.
•Channel inner smart aleck into dignified prose.
•Practice some pathos: Switch hitters play more.
•Get a job as a copywriter. That'll teach you.
•To wit: Try cutting that 3000 word masterpiece to 500.
•Result: Talk about zing.
•Have epiphany: First drafts are not fun; fun is in rewrite.
•Grasp meaning of Gertrude Stein's famous quote: "To write is to write is to write is to write is to write."
•Google Gertrude Stein: Yearn to live in 1920 Paris with young E. Hemingway et al.
•Remember Hemingway's answer when asked why he rewrote a last line 33 times:
•"To get the words right."
•To write is to write right:


Column #10: RESIST

Want to be a writer?

•Master the art of the Resist:
•Resist expectations...
•Bad goal: Bestseller next year.
•Better goal: A book one fine day.
•Best goal: Write for yourself and watch yourself grow.
•Resist comparisons to others....
•...the green-eyed monster prowls and devours.
•Resist distractions...
•...unless distraction is exactly what you need (and often it is).
•Resist excessive email/texting/facebook/instagram/tik-tok/social media du jour...
•...rule it; don't let it rule you.
•Resist limitations...
•...that's an editor's job.
•Resist the urge to tell your story to others...
•...unwritten oral rule: If you tell it, you won't write it.
•Resist the idea you'll never have another idea.
•Resist resisting the blank page...
•...brainstorm. Free associate. Doodle. It's all good.
•Resist others' expectations:
•Good goal: Just say "No" to timesucks.
•Best goal: Save some "yes" for yourself.
•Give in when you must, because that's life. But, daily, practice the writerly art of the: