Monday, September 3, 2007

Writing as Labor

Susan Goodwill is the author of the Kate London Mysteries. BrigaDOOM is available at bookstores and online. Little Shop of Murders is scheduled for release in March of 2008.

If talking about writing or spending dollars on how-to-write books resulted in words on a page, I would have filled a United Van Lines truck with manuscripts by now. Alas, hot air does not a novel make--neither does cold cash.

What does a novel make is giving oneself permission to write utter and complete schlock, diligently applying oneself to the craft, and mercilessly editing that manuscript until it is the best you feel it can be at that given time. And then letting go of it, risking rejection, and repeating the process.

When I give a talk about writing, in my pocket I'll carry what I call my secret weapon. It's a bottle of Elmer's Glue. Because the difference between the three decades I spent dreaming about writing and the last decade in which that dream has come true boil down to this:

When I finally applied my hind-end to my desk chair and found a way to make it stick, voila!

I WROTE! And then, when I had to meet my first deadline, I found out something else: even when you feel far from inspired, okay, when you feel like crap and like everything you write is crap—if you WRITE ANYWAY—if you SHOW UP—a little hummingbird of an idea can flit into your writing and surprise you with some of your most wonderful words.

I'm not sure, but I believe it was Woody Allen who said that genius is ninety percent showing up. Writing is labor just like making doughnuts or selling cars. But writing is also an invitation to something magical, and if you don't show up for work and open up the shop, nothing can get in. The beautiful thing is sometimes when you least expect it, what comes through that door into your writing can be truly magical.


Keith Raffel said...


Good words of advice for Labor Day. As for me though, I need to use Gorilla Glue

Susan Goodwill said...

I heard that one, Keith. Shackles work quite well, also.

Joe Moore said...

"You can't wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club."
~ Jack London

Rick Bylina said...

Glue! Why didn't I think of that earlier. These staples are killing me. Can't wait for the next book. Should I buy stock in Elmers or is the discipline getting better?

Write on! Write on!! Brothers and sisters, amen. Write on!!!


Mark Terry said...

Yeah, it was Woody Allen. And he was right. Partly because, well, so many people fail to just SHOW UP.

Felicia Donovan said...

Susan, wise words, especially about other ideas coming into our heads when we're on an unrelated topic. That happens often to me.

Keith, what about Velcro? Each time you rose, you would hear it rip. Errrr, then again, maybe not such a good idea...