Because this week’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing happens to fall on Friday the 13th, and because undisputed Master of Horror STEPHEN KING was kind enough to send in a special accolade, we’re totally skipping my normal introduction about offering writing tips based on my 15 years as a columnist (stop yawning) so we can get right to Mr. King’s unsolicited accolade regarding the value of my weekly NWOW and how a run-on sentence can get people to read an entire opening paragraph before they even know it!
Comment from THE Stephen King:
“Ned, I visit your Nickel’s Worth quiet often. And so does my LAWYER. We’ll be in touch.”
— Sincerely, Stephen King (Undisputed Master of Horror)
With that kind of affirmation, I could end this post right there — and my lawyer agrees I probably should. But my weekly NWOW isn’t about me; it isn’t about flaunting the adoration I receive from literary giants; and it isn’t about receiving accolades. It’s about… uh…
Oh Yeah! Writing tips! Which brings us to this week’s topic:
Find Make time to write — or I swear I’ll send you a fruitcake!
Before we begin, I feel the need to apologize for the title of this column. I don’t advocate bullying or violence in any way, and my threat of sending a fruitcake to those who don’t make time to write was — in the words of an ex-CIA interrogator friend — “a bit extreme.” So please accept my apology. At the same time it illustrates an aspect of being a writer that, although just as important as developing your voice and technique, is easily overlooked because it’s not as tangible as a well-written description, engaging dialogue or delicious apple fritter. If I’m being honest, few things seem important when I’m in the presence of a delicious apple fritter — which may sound like I skipped breakfast but actually has a point:
Much like claiming the last apple fritter, you need to lay claim to your writing time, even if it means everyone else gets stuck eating fruitcake for a little while each day or week.
Once you begin taking your writing seriously, so will others. And, more importantly, so will YOU. I know that sounds redundant, but the fact is that the development of your writing — whether for pleasure or pursuing a career — truly begins and ends with YOU. Sure, unless you have an editor breathing down your neck like mine is at this moment (seriously, I think she had pizza for breakfast), chances are no one may notice if you don’t finish that book chapter or blog entry today, right?
WRONG! (Sorry, I actually did skip breakfast so I’m a little edgy.) I will notice because, thanks to my ex-CIA friend, I am keeping track of your writing productivity. In fact, Michelle and Victoria — I expect a new post from each of you by Monday or I am sending Father Robert of the fruitcake making Trappist Monks to your homes with a surprise. And it won’t be apple fritters.
But even without the possibility of an 80-year-old toothless monk showing up on your doorstep with a food product that could be used to shore up that sagging foundation under your home, when it comes to noticing what you do or don’t write, there’s only one person who matters:
But not as much as it should matter to you. In the same way you make time for other aspects of daily life, whether it’s going to the gym, doing laundry, family movie night or pretending to audition for role in 50 Shades of Grey, it’s important to make writing a part of your life — daily, nightly or weekly. And to clarify, I’m talking about the writing, not role playing. And if you can’t stop thinking about it, then think of Father Robert.
Writers, particularly those with families, can find themselves feeling guilty about the time they spend at the keyboard, as though they are “wasting” time that could be used for something more “constructive.” Such as building a house. It goes back to something I said in a previous NWOW about how, as a society, we automatically equate payment as validation, i.e., if you aren’t getting paid to write, then it doesn’t have value. That’s where the guilt starts. But let me ask you this: Does anyone question the value of playing golf (aside from me)? How about volunteering at school? Or making dinner? Or cleaning the house? Chances are, you don’t get paid for these things — yet no one questions their value.
Writing is no different.
Unless you’re writing about golf.
So as we approach the New Year, take a serious look at your schedule. Somewhere between work, laundry and your other commitments determine where your writing fits in and commit to it. Your writing is an extension of you; for that reason alone, it has value. Mark your writing time on the calendar. If necessary, post a note for everyone to see, without guilt, and with validation.
I will be watching.
And so will Father Robert.