#1 rule of writing: put bum in seat

It’s amazing how much you can forget when you go back to work for a year and are forced to put everything you’ve been so engaged in on hold. Like getting back into running. And writing. It’s taking me longer to re-establish meaningful routines than I would have expected, but I’m getting there.

One of the lessons I had learned from attending several writing workshops a few years ago is captured in the title of this blog post: to write, sit down and do it. Every day. Read a lot, too, and pay attention to how others write. But to really develop your craft and your style, as Nike says, “Just do it”. I had forgotten this important maxim, even though I had originally started blogging expressly to give myself a venue for frequent practice. It was a recent blog post from a local artist (and yoga instructor) in my area that reminded me of this and several other lessons I learned in writing workshops. Her list of “Ten ways to paint like yourself” resonated with me as equally relevant to aspiring writers. I can imagine that the sentiments are true for any creative endeavour. Check them out.


Now let’s see how we might adapt Donna’s list to come up with a similar list for writers.

10 ways to write authentically

  1. Write often.
  2. Write by yourself. (But consider sharing with others from time to time.)
  3. Don’t be prematurely critical. Don’t spend time making what you’re writing perfect, just keep on writing. You can perfect later. Don’t erase; you might erase your best idea by mistake.
  4. Keep lists of creative ideas on your phone or in your notebook.
  5. Journal while you are writing to remember your thoughts, feelings, lingering concerns, and choices at the time.
  6. I’m not so sure about writing standing up or dancing (!), but make sure you have a writing environment that helps you stay energized and fully engaged.
  7. Develop your intuition and self-awareness.
  8. Practice self-compassion and patience.
  9. Develop your skills and then break the rules.
  10. Remember that you are the boss of you and your writing. Beware of teachers and well-meaning advice-givers who say there is a “right way” to do things.

I think it works remarkably well for writing too, with hardly any tweaking. Thank you, Donna, for sharing this advice.

Do you have a favourite item on the list?  Do you have other items you think belong on the list?



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8 Responses to #1 rule of writing: put bum in seat

  1. jane tims says:

    I find writing and painting quite alike. However, painting gets my heart pounding while writing calms me down. I think it is the scale of the movements doing this. Anyway, it means that painting and writing each demand their own specific time and place. I don’t usually write on days I paint.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Hi Jane. Thanks for offering these interesting insights from an accomplished artist and poet. I’m fascinated by your observation that one form creativity fires you up and the other actually has a calming effect. I think I’m too early in the process to be able to identify feelings other than frustration or satisfaction, but I’m going to start paying more attention based on what you’ve shared. Thank you.

  2. Lynda Ann Homer says:

    This one really hits home for me. I too am trying to find my way back into a routine after my 10 month post retirement work stint followed by a summer filled with kids and grandkids visits. I think the # 1 rule: “bum in seat and write” is fundamental. Also “keep reading and pay attention to how others write”. I’ve just finished reading local author, Riel Nason’s latest novel, “All the things We Leave Behind”. As in her previous novel she has written what she knows. …and successful so! Do we have another guiding rule here…. write what you know? and how does that mesh with the idea that the whole point of writing a novel or story is making things up?

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Hi Lynda. Writing what you know works for me, big time. But I definitely know others who don’t. Science fiction and fantasy would fall in that category (I think!), and so would surrealistic novels like the ones Yann Martel writes. I wouldn’t even know where to start! Gosh, here’s a whole topic to think about! Thx.

  3. DM says:

    I especially like # 10. My favorite time to write is early in the morning while it’s still dark and Mrs DM is still sleeping, as I sip on my Starbucks french roast (black/ no sugar) coffee

    • Jane Fritz says:

      #10 reminds me of what we used to say to each other when we were kids, “You’re not the boss of me!” Since early morning and I don’t get along too well, maybe I should add an additional item: Find the time of day that works best for you and make sure you use it. You can have the early morning slot, DM! 😉

  4. Roy McCarthy says:

    I suppose that’s a worthy list Jane. When I first started writing (not so very long ago) I devoured writing advice, workshops, tips etc. I’m not sure any of it really sunk in. Now I just go ahead and write when and how the spirit takes me. If it’s rubbish as a consequence that’s too bad 🙂

    • Jane Fritz says:

      This from the person who has written at least five terrific novels that I know of personally. Clearly, you subscribe to the #1 rule: bum in seat and write! My guess is that if you thought about it, you must do most of those things, Roy. How would you keep track of your plot lines otherwise, especially the ones that go back and forth between time periods? I’d say you’ve simply got it all figured out and are operating in a post-rules world! That’s where I need to be headed. 🙂

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