The Sit-Your-Ass-Down School of Writing
Here is a list of things I don’t do when I need to get some writing done:
- Light candles to create a sacred space.
- Check the alignment of the moon and stars in relation to my zodiac sign.
- Secure a 1-mile perimeter from all potential distractions.
- Turn off all of my communication devices.
- Announce to the world that I’m going to start writing…any minute now…I’m serious…I’m really going to start…any minute now…
Here is the one thing I do when I need to get some writing done:
- I sit my ass down.
Actually, sometimes I stand at my kitchen counter. Sometimes I sit at my dining room table. Every once in a while, I sit at my desk. Sometimes I lie on my bed. Sometimes I sit in my car or in the park or at a coffee shop or on a train or in the rain or with a goat or on a boat…wait that’s a different story.
Sometimes there are other people around. Sometimes those people are my husband and/or my children. Sometimes there are animals near me. I have lots of pets. Sometimes those people and animals ask me things. These things usually amount to the following:
- Will you feed me?
- Will you entertain me?
- Where is [insert random object here]?
- What time will you be done?
Here is the one rule I have for sentient beings who want my attention when I’m writing:
- Unless you are bleeding from your eyeballs, don’t interrupt me.
I come from the Sit-Your-Ass-Down School of Writing. I didn’t study creative writing in college and I don’t have an MFA. I didn’t start writing fiction until my mid-twenties when I was already married and working full time and then we got a dog, and then I had two babies, and then we got some cats.
When I worked full-time for someone else, I sat my ass down at 5 a.m. and wrote before work. When I got a dog, I sat my ass down and stayed there no matter how much he whined for a walk. (Eventually he learned that I would take him out but only after I was done writing.) After I had babies, I sat my ass down and wrote while they slept, while they nursed, while they sat on my lap or played at my feet, and eventually they got big enough to go to school and now I sit my ass down and write while they are wards of the state for seven hours a day.
But…I don’t write all the time. Every week, I assess my writing workload and all the other commitments I have then I set writing hours for myself. Sometimes those “hours” are fifteen minutes a day because that’s all I can carve out. Sometimes I have the luxury of a full day at my laptop and it’s glorious. No matter if it’s fifteen minutes or fifteen hours, I make sure writing is always a part of my equation because here’s an important truth that you may not know…brace yourself…
Nobody cares whether you write a book or not.
It’s true. In fact, most people would probably prefer you don’t write a book. Other writers hope you don’t because it’s more competition. To agents and editors, you are another manuscript in a giant pile they have to get through before 5:00 p.m. Your family and friends will tell you it’s great and all, but really they’re checking their watches, wondering when you’re going to stop all of this nonsense and [choose one]:
- feed them
- entertain them
- find things for them
My point is this: Writing a book is hard, time-consuming, underpaid and often thankless work. Aren’t you glad you signed up for this? What a great pep talk! I should definitely be a cheerleader.
BUT the only way to get that hard, time-consuming, underpaid, thankless and ultimately exceptionally satisfying work that you feel deeply compelled to do done is by sitting your ass down and writing…even when there are emails to answer and laundry to do and groceries to be put away and children to feed and dogs to walk and partners to smooch and friends to call. But, if you wait for that one precious, perfect moment when the stars align and the candles are lit and every one has been alerted to your intention and promises not to bother you, then it’ll never happen.
So, go on now…shoo…stop reading this. Sit your ass down and write already! Sheesh.
Heather Swain is the author of the young adult novels Hungry; Josie Griffin is Not a Vampire; Me, My Elf and I; and Selfish Elf Wish. She lives in a crooked house in Brooklyn with way too many sentient beings but you can visit her at heatherswainbooks.com or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.