Posted by monicamynk
Post four in the discussion from Richard Bausch’s “Letter to a Young Writer.”
I usually don’t keep New Year’s Resolutions past a week, which is why it’s pretty remarkable that I’ve already made over ten posts on this blog. It’s so hard to start new habits in your mid-to-late thirties. Kids, soccer, church, work, housework–everything seems to conspire against you when you try to take out time for something like writing.
Without habitual diligence, the likelihood of finishing anything developed enough to publish is minuscule. This is just like anything else in life–reading the Bible, praying, completing random acts of kindness–you must persist or you fail.
The title of this post is a piece of advice I was given from one of the first people to critique my work. They said I’d relied too much on adverbs, left out too many details, and it felt like I’d just rushed to get something down on the page. I’ve come across some nonsensical dribble from authors in my time, so I’m sure that a few are falling through the cracks and getting published anyway. Still, it takes quite a bit of work ethic and staying power to complete a full novel manuscript.
While participating in NaNoWriMo, I set a goal of 2000 words per day. There were days I could only manage about 50. Other days I wrote 10,000. By the end of the month, my fingers ached, my mind swam, and I felt like I’d just finished a 5K. But I finished because I kept coming to the computer every day, opening the file and reading the words until I felt compelled to type new ones.
In his third point to young authors, Bausch says this:
“Be regular and ordinary in your habits, like a petty bourgoise, so you may be violent and original in your work.” This comes from Flaubert and is quite good advice. It has to do with what I was talking about in the first paragraph and is, of course, better expressed. The thing that separates the amateur writer from the professional, often enough, is simple the amount of time spent working the craft. You know that if you really want to write, if you hope to produce something that will stand up to the winds of criticism and scrutiny of strangers, you’re going to have to work harder than you have ever worked on anything else in your life æ hour upon hour upon hour, with nothing in the way of encouragement, no good feeling, except the sense that you have been true to the silently admonishing examples of the writers who came before you – the ones whose company you would like to be in and of whose respect you would like to be worthy.
I often tell my high school students that any good grade is worth the hard work, and I think the same applies here. One can’t just decide they’re going to write a book, get the story on paper, and drop it off at the publishing house.
One of my favorite Ernest Hemingway quotes supports this idea.
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
In other words, writing a novel is kind of like undertaking a second job. You have to be committed, dedicated, motivated, and habitual. So, in the spirit of being habitual, stay tuned tomorrow for another glimpse into the Mind of Mynk.