Saturday, September 15, 2007

Telling Write From Wrong (Part 3)

Don't Drive Yourself Too Hard

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


One of my friends who is writing a novel is the blogger It's The Little Things and she left a very interesting comment here a few hours ago. ``David,'' she wrote, ``I've learned to write just a portion of a chapter if that is where my inspiration stops. I do not choose to feel guilty if it isn't 'there' on a particular day or two. The days I can't write, I write by hand in my notebook, adding ideas that I need to go back into the typed manuscript to add.''

Today's tip: Recognise when to stop and take a break.

I have always encouraged writers to acknowledge inspiration and take the hard step of getting started, but it is equally important to know when to take a break. Because of the pace of life, especially for parents, it is not always possible to sit down at a computer when inspiration strikes. If an idea occurs to me, I write it down - because there is nothing worse than having a brilliant idea and then losing it forever in the mental fog of a myriad daily chores.

Recognise a moment of inspiration. Write it down. And when you are back at your computer, allow it to guide you. Sometimes these ideas ``write'' themselves, but sometimes they need a lot of sweat and toil to translate into words on a computer screen.

There are times, too, when ideas ebb and flow. But we're human beings, we're not machines, which means that some days our output will be prodigious and on other days it will simply be a trickle of words.

A friend of mine who is a very good writer once told me she was constantly frustrated because she used to get bogged down with her writing. Turned out that she was writing very late at night and would often spend a couple of hours just writing a few paragraphs, getting progressively slower and slower and crankier and crankier. I suggested that she try writing in the afternoon or evening - fitting in with her busy schedule - when her mind was fresher. It worked. She wrote quicker, with more clarity, and found she wasn't propelling herself inexorably towards writer's block.

Treat your brain like a Rolls-Royce engine. Don't blow a gasket!

24 comments:

mrsnesbitt said...

Great advice....think I will do 3 good sentences this morning!

david mcmahon said...

G'day Denise,

But you always do good sentences! And tomorrow you can do six and the next day you can do twelve and the next day you can do twenty-four!

Have a great weekend

Keep smiling

David

Jeni said...

G'day, David. Thanks for the offer of a casserole to help me out while I'm dealing with this cold. If you have problems booking a flight to get it here in time for supper, just post the recipe and I'll cook it up, give it your name too. I'm always looking for new menu ideas ya know!
Thanks for the good thoughts. Must be helping cause the cold seems to be starting into the "cease and desist" phase - except for the cough and that will probably linger a bit - usually does that for me.

Merisi said...

Sound advice, and feels so good hearing it from someone with your experience.
Inspiration first:
I think that those Viennese writers who took over whole Kaffeehauses to meet and discuss and get inspired, really had a point (besides wanting coffee with just enough milk added, to give it the right shade - forcing waiters to use paint charts: I suppose those were the very uninspired and frustrated writers who went to such excesses *g*). Even today, I notice people taking notes. Sometimes I am one of them. I am one of those people whose mind works best when being given a bit of free reign (does that make me a free-range-grazer?). Or a deadline (adrenaline, oh how I love thee!).

david mcmahon said...

G'day Jeni,

Great to know you're feeling better. I am booked on a special non-stop flight, arriving just before dinner (your time, not Aussie time).

There is a full silver service, complete with butler.

Would madame care for Mumm champagne with her meal?

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Merisi,

I know you always tell me that yours is a photo essay blog, but the more I see your commenst andyour style and wit, the more I would love to see some of your writing on your blog. How about a once-a-week observation, even if it's only a few sentences long!

You write with wit, style, grace, passion and humour. Perhaps this is something you'd consider?

You first topic could be the Kaffeehauses in that beautiful city - with photographs, of course!

Keep smiling

David

Shelby said...

very good advice - I recently started to write.

singleton said...

Smiling! I love to write in the middle of the night, banging on the keyboard, but in the morning, I often find, it only made sense in the middle of the night! Great advice, even to those of us who are only journaling.....
Wishing you a great week-end!

RUTH said...

A great tip and not just for writing! :o) I could have saved myself many a backache gardening if I'd heeded this good advice.

Cynic with Flair said...

Wonderful advice. I am like your friend that writes late at night, when I have the time, and become "crankier and crankier" as you say. It's hard to fit it in during the work day, but I will give it a go. Thanks!

Gledwood said...

I will keep your url in my links...

i need some advice i'm attempting my memoirs and they're driving me nuts.

i'm speaking as an (unpublished) novelist it is far harder when you've no licence to just make things up!!

backpakker said...

Great tips ...must try some of them myself when I get into a writer's block...earlier when I used to fancy myself to be a writer, I used to wake up in the middle of the night and jot down whatever ideas I had .

*Goddess* said...

I really enjoyed your three pieces on writing, and I have a question, have you ever written anything about query letters? That's where I seemed to get tripped up every time. I find them so intimidating.

Also, David, how are you adding those bookmarks at the end of each post?
Thanks!

goldennib said...

I found writing with a timer set for ten minutes and no other rules, gets my juices flowing. You can fit ten minutes in almost anywhere.

david mcmahon said...

Hi Shelby,

Thank you for dropping by. Do keep in touch.

Good luck with your writing. It is such a wonderful thing to do. I'd love to hear from you about your progress.

Avery warm welcome to you and let me know if there is anything I can do for you.

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Singleton,

You are a beautiful writer. Your posts simply sing.

And you never use the same tune twice. And you, ma'am are not ``only'' a journaler.

You are touched by the Muse.

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Ruth,

I did smile at the gardening application!

Love your work. Have a great Sunday.

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Cynic with flair,

I'm so glad you dropped by. And thank you for sharing that experience.

Time can be so hard to nail down. Do keep in touch and let me know if I can help in any way.

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Gledwood,

Happy to help. Let me know what the specific problem/s is/are and I'd be glad to assist.

Remember, a year ago I was also an unpublished novelist. Amd if I don;t offer to help others, then my experience is worth nothing.

Do keep in touch - and I'm always happy to help.

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Backpakker,

You ARE a writer. I;ve read enough of your posts to know that.

Just keep at it - and stay in touch.

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Goddess,

Can you give me one or two specific examples? I'll answer them on a post - because that's precisely the sort of interaction I want to start.

Just let me know.

The bookmarks are the work of Terry Fletcher of Terry's Sandbox fame. Have alerted him to your query.

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Goldennib,

I think you;ve just given me a great idea for a post.....

This is the sort of interaction I was hoping to achieve. Thank you

Keep smiling

David

*Goddess* said...

A lot of publishers (magazines and novels) require a query letter before they'll even look at your stuff. So you have to basically sum up your whole novel or article in that letter, and that's intimidating to me. It's intimidating because I know that if I can't capture the essence of my work in that short letter, I can't pass GO or collect my $200;) What info should be included? How should they be written? How long? Any info would be greatly appreciated.

Kirti said...

Hmm...I like this...I also like the idea of writing the part you feel like writing and going back to the rest...good tips!