It's official: I've traded in my sacred writing space for sacred writing TIME... Thanks to a single nugget of wisdom gifted at a recent writer's conference.
Writer’s conferences are the joy of most living, breathing writers. They provide us a chance to share tips and tricks with fellow writers, learn from published authors, talk incessantly about our own projects (elevator pitch, anyone?), and of course seek fame and fortune from visiting agents and editors. My own two favorite conferences include the SCWW Conference each October in Myrtle Beach, and Words & Music: A Literary Feast in New Orleans (coming up this November 20-23!)
Conferences also offer us a chance to renew our writing vows – to write, that is. Problem is, we don't always get much writing done. We're too busy talking about writing. It's easy to forget that writing is a verb. But this year, as I spent a peaceful weekend at the recent SCWW conference I found myself – instead of attending classes – drawn to the solitary concrete balcony in my hotel room, listening to the surf while pounding away at my laptop keyboard, missing conference classes all together and… writing. How refreshing! After too many years of listening to writers and faculty wax romantic on the topic of sacred writing space (of which I have three such unused shrines in my house but end up writing best on the run) I was struck with a sudden revelation. Maybe it was time to trade in all the space for sacred time. So I kept writing.
I didn’t resurface until that evening’s dinner (even writers have to eat). After dinner, we were treated to a keynote speech by best-selling author Michael Connelly, a gracious and humble artist who, in twenty minutes on the stage, didn’t bring up sacred writing space once. Instead he spoke of the time we all need to put in as writers. He offered the best writer words of wisdom I’ve heard in years: that forcing ourselves to glue our butts to our collective chairs just fifteen minutes a day was imperative to developing our writing as a habit.
I chewed on that over the next couple days: How many of our diverse and talented group from Charleston would encourage each other to write, but also accept each other’s excuses for all the reasons we just couldn’t get to it that day. Kids, work, laundry, moving, non-profit projects, volunteering, illness, injury... and don’t even get me started on pets. Truth is, much as we supported each other's efforts and shared in our every success, between the six of us we had an excuse book that would be the envy of kids coast to coast trying to get out of why their homework didn’t get done. (Funny enough, top-selling author Jeffrey Deaver often describes being a writer as "having homework every day for the rest of your life." I think we all know why.)
Well, fifteen minutes. Honestly. How tough could that be? So I put it out there in an email late Halloween night:
"Dear Initiates: This seems as good a time as any to launch a fresh new club (with a classic theme). We are now - each of us - officially the SIX founding members of The Butt Glue Club (or, as we may wish to call ourselves in polite company - The Bee-Gees).
The BG's have VERY few rules:
1. No excuses wanted, needed or accepted for why we didn't write last night.
2. WRITE - as Michael Connelly said - AT LEAST FIFTEEN MINUTES A DAY.
That's it - that's all. Six perfect writers writing perfectly… Failure is not an option.
Future perks include publishing fame, speaking tours, and hearty pats on the back as we congratulate each other on our "overnight" success...
Within 48 hours I had enthusiastic responses from all five initiates. We were on our way...
Today, we celebrated our first outrageously successful week. We emailed regularly, little quips and reminders, reports on our daily success. What started as the fifteen minutes a day mandate rolled into accomplishing 20 minutes, 45 minutes, 2 hours, 6 hours. Word counts went from 395 words to 800 to 2,000 to, "Thanks to the Butt Glue club, I was able to finish a new chapter this week!"
There endeth the lesson. I’m off to plant my butt in the chair now.
Before I go, let me leave you with this from the ever-brilliant Barbara Kingsolver: "There is no perfect time to write. There is only NOW." Write on...
Causes Shari Stauch Supports
LILA: Lowcountry Initiative for the Literary Arts
Pirates Alley Faulkner Society