Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Writers Write...Right?

I’ve always loved quotes. You know, those wonderful little words of wisdom from various sources that just make you stop for a moment and think.

My grandmother must have passed that down to me. Her tattered, well-read Bible was filled with quotes. They were scribbled inside both covers and on the blank pages at front and back. Even the margins of a printed page wasn’t exempt if a particular scripture brought to mind some witty little saying she’d heard or read – or even dreamed up herself. (Hey, maybe Granny gave me the writer’s itch, too!)

Whatever the reason, catchy little phrases, words of wisdom, proverbs … to me, the really good ones are like gold nuggets – hard to find, but their value far outweighs all the time and effort invested. When one of them really strikes a chord in my mind, it resonates – and I never forget it.

One such little gem is straightforward and succinct: Writers write.

The first time I saw it, I thought, “Well … duh!” (I know, that’s really profound.) But come on … does there even exist a more useless waste of two words? Of course writers write – they’re writers!

Then I got really serious about my own contributions to the writing community, and I finally saw the light. Because no matter how pristine my intentions, every day is a brand new commitment to my chosen field. Back when I was writing in a notebook or pecking out words on a cantankerous old typewriter with four little ones playing at my feet, it didn’t seem so hard to just sit down and do what I needed to do …write.

But then there was the advent of the personal computer – oh, sweet bliss! No more messy eraser ribbons. No more black smudges all over the page. No more retyping an entire page to correct an error I missed in the initial edit. Could life be any sweeter?

Oh, yes, it certainly could.

I was ecstatic when I discovered the World Wide Web. Those pesky trips to the library for research? A thing of the past! Everything I needed was right there at my fingertips – I just had to go online and get it. A multitude of information readily available … along with games. And online shopping. And e-mails. And on … and on … and on. That little CPU box holds a veritable plethora of things that have nothing to do with writing. And for a natural procrastinator like me, they spell d-e-a-t-h to a writing career.

Shopping is a real killer. You tell yourself you’re doing a great thing … after all, you won’t spend as much time away from writing if you just go online and order that blouse you’re looking for in a particularly hard-to-find shade of cantaloupe crush. Uh-huh.

Do you know how easy it is to while away an hour or two playing Boggle online? I have done exactly that in what felt like only ten or twenty minutes. And it’s so easily justified! Any number of writer’s workshops will tell you that in order to write effectively, you must sharpen your mind with a variety of stimuli. The occasional break from stringing words together is good for you. It stimulates! It inspires! It refreshes the thought process for when you return to your manuscript.

And that's the kicker. Returning to your manuscript. I have become the world’s best at finding just one more thing to do before writing. And then just one more.

So, along with a couple of other favorites, I always keep those two words in gargantuan, vividly colored letters somewhere on or near my desk:


It’s not a definition any longer. It’s a reminder. I cannot call myself a writer if I don’t write. I’ll never see my name on the cover of another book … if I’m too busy surfing the web to write one. And though I may eventually find that perfect blouse in exactly my size, color and price range, my chances of wearing it in an author photo are nil … if I haven’t done the one thing that qualifies me as an author.

Write. Because that’s what writers do.

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