Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Erin: As Nike says, "Just do it"

Last week, Lisa gave some advice on getting published. She said, and I quote, “Write the best book you can.” This seems pretty straightforward, but Lisa also mentioned how many of the people asking her for publishing advice had yet to write their book.

And this got me thinking. About time. About effort. About the amount of energy and dedication and utmost perseverance that is necessary to write a novel.

When I tell someone that I write in addition to my day job, they often say something along the lines of: “Oh that’s so nice. I would love to do that. I wish I had the time.” I usually feel like responding with: “You do have the time, you are just using it to do something else.” And that’s totally acceptable. You should absolutely fill your spare time with the people, places and things that you love. But if you say you’d love to publish a book, and then never find the time to write it, perhaps the hard truth is that you don’t really want to write.

Now let’s say you do want to write. There are stories inside of you and you feel you will not be yourself until they are shared. You are willing and ready to carve out the time. Well I have some advice: Start. Just start.

You will never, ever reach your dreams of publication if you don’t sit down and write the darn book. It is the only place to begin. And sometimes starting can be scary. I understand that the idea may not be fully formed, that it is mostly in your head, wild and unruly. I understand that you’re still working out the details and right now the plot seems overwhelming. And above all, I understand that you are busy with a million other obligations. But if you want to write – if you want to be published – you have to start. Right now. Don’t put it off any longer, because trust me, it will never be the right time.

This is not depressing. It is simply the truth. You will always be finishing school, or starting a new job, or getting married, or moving, or having a kid, or going back to school, or having a second kid, or visiting family, or buying a house, or moving again. All of these are wonderful things, and even when you plan for them, they require time and energy. Some you may not plan for at all, and they will happen nonetheless.

My point is that life will constantly throw you curveballs. There will never be that perfect moment when you sit down and a sign flashes before of you saying, “Begin novel now!”

So just do it. Start. Carve out the time. An hour here, an hour there. You don’t have to pull all-nighters, although I’m pretty sure you occasionally will. Write on your lunch break. Wake up an hour earlier. If your commute involves a train of some sort, take the laptop with you. Brainstorm while you drive. Nothing makes you focus more than a hard time frame and you will be amazed at how much you can accomplish when working against the clock.

If writing is your dream, your passion, you will find the time. You will make it and then you will use it wisely. Because only you are in control of how you spend the time you carve out of your busy day. Only you are in control of your dreams.

Finding the time to write is a constant balancing act. So go find that balance, start writing and don’t stop!


  1. If my husband can finish reading entire books just in the ten minutes that he spends in the bath every morning, an hour of writing a day would eventually produce a novel. (And yeah, the books are ruined by the bath -- pages all wrinkly and fluffed apart, covers peeling. But dang he reads a lot of books.)

    Congratulations to you and to Sara on your exciting book sale, Erin!

  2. Rock on! This is sound advice. It makes complete sense in that "you should just KNOW this already" way. And while most people do know this somewhere in the back of their brain (it fell behind the filing cabinet in there where the fear gremlin is chewing on the notes for the novel) it's always good to hear. A little tough love can take you a long way if you open yourself to it. So, thanks for the kick in the pants tough love style.

  3. Great post - it reminds me of those two Jane Yolen-isms that I adore:
    B.I.C. - Butt In Chair
    H.O.P. - Heart On Page

  4. Thanks! And a good reminder that you don't have to have huge blocks of time (something I'd become accustomed to up until a few months ago). I am writing when I can, sometimes just an hour, a few minutes of working something out-starting to stress, lol. You _are_ right. It's a balancing act.

  5. Absolutely true. Just as I always say that I would love to play guitar but never take the time to practice, others should realize the same when it comes to writing novels. Just do it!

  6. So true. I learned this the hard way. For years I wanted to write a novel but always thought I had to be somewhere in life. And then one day--after over a year of reading publishing blogs--I finally sat down and did it. Because, really, no amount of planning or whining will get you published. Just a really good book.

    Great post, Erin.

  7. Couldn't agree more. And I've grown weary of people wanting to write and envying that somehow I magically have more hours in my days than they do. I don't. I make the time. Lots of it.

  8. Congrats to you and Sara on an amazing deal! This is great advice. Just do it. If it's your passion, make the time. I've had to sacrifice baby showers (Okay, maybe not much of a sacrifice there), weddings, family dinners, but I don't regret spending time with my characters. And the people who support you will get it if they truly support you! Great post!

  9. Awesome post, Erin!

    This is the advice that trumps all others. To be a writer, you have to write.

    I have always dreamt about writing, but never made the efforts to genuinely sit down and force myself to write, to finish a novel. Not even when I found the online writing community a year ago. Forcing myself to write is something I've began to do very recently, and it's difficult, and sometimes I'd tell myself I'm too busy with other obligations -- but finishing a novel only happens through personal commitment.

  10. Man, look at all these comments! So glad this post got everyone chatting...

    Beth -- That is too funny about your husband. But the "just do it" slogan applies to everything, I suppose. Want to read more? Just find the the time, even if it's in the bath!

    Natasha -- Yup. Sometimes you know something is true, but a bit of brutal honesty kicks you into gear!

    Lee -- Both so true. Get in the chair, but bring the passion as well!

    Deb -- You can write a novel in giant blocks of time, or little by little. Either works and neither way is more right than the other. That's the beauty of it!

    Phil -- Guitars, writing, running... Nike was really onto something with that "just do it" advice, huh?

    Tracey -- I was the same way. And one day I just said, "This is what I want to do and by gosh I'm going to do it." Once I was honest with myself, I was able to find the time.

    Terri-Lynne -- Yes! We all have just 24hrs a day. We don't have an extra hour because we are "writers," although that would be lovely.

    Trisha -- It's always a balance, finding the time to write and also making sure you LIVE (friends, family, new adventures) in the process. But you are so right --surrounding yourself with people who support you is crucial.

    Emy -- Yes, getting that novel written isn't always easy, but it sure is rewarding. And fun!

  11. Erin -- Fantastic post, and oh so true! If it's important to you, then you find the time to just do it! People say the same thing to me: How do you write while teaching full time -- as if I have magically acquired time they don't have!

    And @Trisha -- if you can't get out of the baby shower or wedding, at least you can imagine how your characters would react if they were there and make the time productive! ;)

  12. Great post! It's funny now that I've got a baby around the house where I've found the time to work the novel in. ^_^

  13. Dianne -- Yup, there's nothing magical about that extra time we find. It's just the product of dedication, shifted schedules and discipline. (Also, really like your character test idea for Trisha's situation)

    Katrina -- No babies for me (yet). Just a 2hr commute, which I am certain is not nearly as demanding and much easier to schedule around ;)

  14. Thanks for the stab in the back! I need to get started on that book.

  15. There have been some books over the years that I simply can't put down at night until I'm finished with them, even if that means I stay up way past my bedtime and wind up being a zombie at work or school the next day. It seems to happen less often these days than it did when I was younger, possibly because I read less fiction than I used to.


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