Best Writing Advice I’ve Heard In a While

Author John Scalzi wrote a post today titled: Writing: Find the Time or Don’t. This post is about me.

Maybe it’s not about me literally (shocking), but it certainly speaks to me. He says this:

Either you want to write or you don’t, and thinking that you want to write really doesn’t mean anything. There are lots of things I think I’d like to do, and yet if I don’t actually make the time and effort to do them, they don’t get done. This is why I don’t have an acting career, or am a musician — because as much I’d like those, I somehow stubbornly don’t actually do the things I need to do in order to achieve them. So I guess in really fundamental way I don’t want them, otherwise I’d make the time. C’est la vie.

And this:

So: Do you want to write or don’t you? If your answer is “yes, but,” then here’s a small editing tip: what you’re doing is using six letters and two words to say “no.” And that’s fine. Just don’t kid yourself as to what “yes, but” means.

And of course this:

If your answer is “yes,” then the question is simply when and how you find the time to do it. If you spend your free time after work watching TV, turn off the TV and write. If you prefer to spend time with your family when you get home, write a bit after the kids are in bed and before you turn in yourself. If your work makes you too tired to think straight when you get home, wake up early and write a little in the morning before you head off. If you can’t do that (I’m not a morning person myself) then you have your weekend — weekends being what I used when I wrote Agent to the Stars.

There’s much more over at his blog. I really suggest you check it out. I’ve been thinking about this for some time, to be honest. Do I really want to write? Because with the way I seem to find time to do other things, it sure doesn’t seem like it.

Sure I have the kids at home and the full-time job. Those eat up a lot of time. However, the kids do eventually go to sleep (really). At the least, if I wanted to I could write an hour a day, from 9:00 to 10:00 at night. I could do this, but I don’t.

I’m not giving up, at least not yet. I really do recognize the above about myself. I also don’t ever say that the reason I don’t write anymore is because I don’t have the time. I know I have the time. I just don’t use it for writing.

All is not lost, though. I’m not depressed as I type this. In fact, I’m heartened. As we move into Autumn I feel a bit of a surge in creativity in my body. Seems to happen every year around this time, in fact. After a few months of feeling blah, it’s a nice change for sure. I just hope I have the guts to take the time to take advantage of it.

14 thoughts on “Best Writing Advice I’ve Heard In a While

  1. I am also a fiction writer and last night the baby (6 months) went to sleep early. I’m at a part in my novel that I’ve been struggling with for some time but instead of working at it, I wasted time online. It’s very true that you have to make yourself use what time you DO have. Find the time or don’t. I’m going to keep repeating this to myself, I think. Thanks for posting!

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  3. I get distracted easily, but I shouldn’t use this as an excuse to not write. I find I’m miserable if I don’t write for days; and when I do write, I feel alive and relieved. I may never get a book published, but I’ll write whatever my heart and muse desire. I find it is very difficult to write every day or whenever I want to. I work full time, some days gone by 5am and not returning until almost 8pm. I have a son, and a (high maintenance) husband. I usually find time to write mainly on weekends or on those days when the guys are out of the house for a short time. Bottom line, if you truly want to write, you’ll find a way.

    Great post! 🙂


  4. With two seven-year-olds, an almost-three-month-old, a house in desperate need of remodeling, and two busy social schedules to contend with, free time in my house is in high demand and short supply. I write during my lunch breaks at work. Now if only they were longer… 🙂

  5. My answer is, “Not right now.”

    And I’m ok with that. A good friend likes to remind me that we all have seasons of our lives, and the “little kids” season is pretty overwhelming. But I’m been getting the itch lately too, so maybe I’ll change my answer . . .

    “Yes, in November.”


  6. This is so absolutely right on. I have friends who spend way more time talking about their creativity than actually producing any work and i get so sick of listening to them. I know that sounds mean, but the whole “do it or shut up about it” angle of this post really resonates with me today. So true.

  7. I had a dental hygienist who listened to me find all these reasons why I wasn’t flossing my teeth. She cut through the BS with one simple sentence. “You’ll floss when you’re ready.”

    I just about fell over.

    She didn’t try to convince me. She didn’t tell me why it was important. She gave me room and impowerment. She told me I would do that thing when I was ready and not a day before.

    I’ve flossed my teeth every day since.

    It’s much the same with writing. Once I realized no one was going to swoop into my life and make me write; that I was only going to write if I wanted to…I’ve written most days since. On the days I haven’t I realize it’s because I don’t want to.

    Free and clear. My hygienist told me so.

  8. I agree with John Scalzi, and very much with the “yes, but” part. If you want to write you will not look for excuses why you cannot do it. You will desperately use every moment you can find to do it.
    It would be a shame if you abandoned the writing, Paul. You have a lot of talent. Why don’t you set up a goal for yourself, let’s say 500 words a day? I think it would help… 🙂

  9. I totally agree…. and disagree. I think there’s a time for everything, and sometimes we just have to tuck the dreams away for the right time.

    I’ve always wanted to write a book. Always. That was just as true when I was 28 and dead tired and buried under poopy diapers and not a second of coherent thought to write as it was when I was 39 with a publishing contract.

    Your answer could be “not right now.” Or you could use this time to hone your skills and keep the creativity flowing in small bursts, even if it means not pursuing it with every spare second you have. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

    The great thing about this is that YOU get to decide.

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