Write Every Damn Day

write every damn dayWrite every day. It’s something they tell you to do if you want to be a writer. And it seems like both an easily achievable and a hopelessly insurmountable task all at once.

I mean, of course you should write every day. How long does it take to sit down and scribble out a few words? It’s the easiest thing in the world to do… until it isn’t.

Life gets in the way often and, unless you’re aggressively intentional about setting aside your time to write, it’s easy to find that you’ve gone days and days without making any time to sit down and put pen to paper or fingers to keys (well, for anything other than updating your Facebook status, right?).

3 reasons why you can’t write every day

Think you don’t have time to write? Here are 3 reasons you can’t write every day and why they don’t actually matter.

  1. You’re too busy
    Understandably. Most of us are busy somehow. But you prioritize what you want most, and that gets done first so, sit down and think about whether you can’t take a little slice of time from binge-watching that Netflix series, or right after you put the kids to bed, and give your writing your full attention.
  2. You don’t have the time for a big project
    Guess what! You can do this in tiny increments. As little as 15 minutes a day will keep you moving forward with your writing practice, keep the gears oiled, and help you grow as a writer. Or if you like word counts better, pick something reachable and start there… 250 words. You can totally meet that.
  3. You can’t think of anything to say
    If you’re stuck, not finding anything about your current work inspiring, then try writing prompts. You can find them on-line or buy a book full of them. My cousin David goes through old family photos and makes up stories to go with the people in them. There’s always something you can spend your 15 minutes on.

The thing is, people will tell you that after you do this for x-number of days, you’ll develop a habit and you won’t think about it anymore, you’ll just do it. I’m honestly not convinced (and neither is this study on building habits). But just because you may have to be extra diligent about making sure you find your 15 minutes a day, doesn’t mean you should skip it altogether. The diligence is part of the point.

Sure you’ll miss days. It happens to everyone. But if you set your intention, if you put your mind to it, and if you remind yourself how important your writing practice is to you, writing every day is a realizable goal!

This new year, I’m giving myself a challenge. I’m going to write every day for 15 minutes. I challenge you to write along with me. Comment below and let me know you’ll be participating so that I can cheer you on! Share your successes and your failures with me, too. Let’s make 2016 our best writing year yet.

If it’s important… If it’s something you want more than anything in the world… If you’re really serious about this writing thing… then just do it. Write Every Damn Day.

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3 Reasons to Skip Writing Lengthy Character Description

DursleysWhen you’re writing a novel, it can be tempting to take a paragraph to describe every tiny last detail of how character looks. After all, you’ve spent so much time imagining your character and what he’s doing that you can see him vividly, even down to the brand of jeans he’s wearing.

But let’s talk about why you might not want to describe your character to the last detail.

  1. It’s boring
    If you spend a paragraph, or maybe more, describing your character’s look and fashion choices, you could risk your readers skipping ahead to reach the dialogue or the action–you know–the good stuff.
  2. It leaves no room for the reader’s imagination
    Part of the reader’s experience of your story is picturing it as it happens. This includes what the characters look like. Don’t be too quick to control what the reader gets to imagine.
  3. It’s probably not the most important detail you should be focusing on
    Usually character descriptions come at the beginning of the novel in an attempt to tell us what our character is like based on his (or her) appearance instead of showing us his (or her) character in action. Give your character something to do and sprinkle in bits of description where necessary.

And now I’m going to use examples from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, of course, because I think J.K. Rowling models this practice excellently (as per usual).

[Mr. Dursley] was a big, beefy man with hardly any neck, although he did have a very large mustache. Mrs. Dursley was thin and blonde and had nearly twice the usual amount of neck, which came in very useful as she spent so much of her time craning over garden fences, spying on the neighbors.

One sentence for each character, and we have what we need to know. We learn a little later that Mr. Dursley wears boring ties and that Mrs. Dursley has a shrill voice, but those details come in the moment, as needed, not all in a clump at the beginning. Especially if the characters you are describing are minor characters, there’s little to no need to get more detailed than this. The reader is perfectly capable of filling in the rest.

A lot of times, writers try to shove the details of their main character onto the reader at the beginning of the story because it’s something that they feel the need to get out of the way and then they never return to it again. Instead of spending a paragraph writing description that your readers are willing and able to fill in for themselves, choose details that will reveal something important about the character or that makes him different from other characters.

harry_potter_grows_01And now an exception to the rule. When introducing the main character, Harry, Rowling uses almost a paragraph to tell us what he looks like, but as you’ll recognize if you’ve read book before, nearly all of his features–from the color of his eyes to the scar on his forehead–end up having some significant role in the story, in the entire series, even.

Perhaps it had something to do with living in a dark cupboard, but Harry had always been small and skinny for his age. He looked even smaller and skinnier than he really was because all he had to wear were old clothes of Dudley’s, and Dudley was about four times bigger than he was. Harry had a thin face, knobbly knees, black hair, and bright green eyes. He wore round glasses held together with a lot of Scotch tap because of all the times Dudley had punched him on the nose. The only thing Harry liked about his own appearance was a very thin scar on his forehead that was shaped like a bolt of lightning. He had had it as long as he could remember, and the first question he could ever remember asking his Aunt Petunia was how he had gotten it.

The skinny smallness and the baggy clothes tell us Harry’s aunt and uncle neglect him. The eyes are his mother’s, as he hears over and over once he’s around people who knew her. The broken and taped glasses reinforce the neglect and show the bullying nature of Harry’s and Dudley’s relationship. And the scar is PIVOTAL in the entire series.

Again, it comes down to the details. If your character’s appearance is important enough to spend words on in the first place, use it to your advantage. Use it to paint more than just a picture. Use it to tell your story. Use it to make your characters come alive.