Sunday, June 13, 2010

Shut Up and Write: A Master’s Thesis

"... Kill the procrastinator inside you. Kill the lazy bastard writer and nurture the benevolent workaholic writer. He’s in there somewhere. Check the closet; he’s probably cowering in the back behind the shoes ..."

A few weeks ago I was telling a friend of mine about how I’d love to get published, and all the wonderful things I’d do with the advance money and the travelling and book tours and all that good stuff that comes with being a successful author.

She sighed heavily and said, “Just shut up and write already!”

Naturally I was kind of offended by this statement at first. I write, don’t I? It may not look like it sometimes, because I tend to stare off into space (which is the way writers work, coincidentally) but to the outsider this only sounds like excuses – and if heard often enough they begin to sound like what they really are; a deflection , a ruse, a way to make the question go away. I write, sure. Am I producing anything? Maybe not. I blog a lot, gotta build a fan base, get to know people. But in the end we write to produce stories, not blog posts. At least for me that’s the goal.

I’ve had a blog for about a year now, and it seems pretty successful. A good number of people follow it. What has been missing for me is the fiction that I love so much. Blog posts have become the crutch for me; whenever a story gets tough or doesn’t feel right, I turn to blogging because it’s easy. I can open a Word Doc and just vamp. They’re great because, as I am writing this, I am slightly hung over and in a writing mood, and a blog post is something that wakes my brain up enough to deal with the agonizing prose.

So when is a good time to Shut Up and Write?

For me it’s when I know I should be writing and I decide it’s easier to go on Twitter or do a blog post (which is still writing, but I digress) or when I have a Word Doc open, write a few lines, then start perusing my Facebook profile or checking my email, which eventually leads back to Twitter and that’s where the troubles all begin, kind of like avoiding a lover during an argument. It’s remarkable how we can love something as much as writing and yet avoid it like a plague sometimes!

This all came to a crashing reality when one of my followers wrote to me, “shouldn’t you be writing or something?” when I was happily updating away on Twitter.

Yes, I should.

I needed a battle cry to stop this behavior, so Shut Up and Write was born.

Whenever someone tells me to stop talking about writing and just write, my first reaction is to become indignant:

Hmmph. Who does this person think they are, the Queen??

Right! You think writing is easy, don’t you? Try it sometime!

You’re not a writer, you’ll never understand.

These are statements we’ve often made to people who are only trying to tell us that we are being very lazy and not producing anything and sometimes we just don’t want to hear the truth, because the truth sucks sometimes.

In truth, writing IS hard, and sometimes I can’t face the page (not writer’s block, I don’t acknowledge its existence, thank you very much) and finding other things to do is simply easier. It’s crude, and kind of childish, but you have to see the complexities behind it.

Shut Up and Write means going silent online so you can concentrate on what you love most, writing. I know it’s not fun to leave a party early to go home and write, but if we’re ever to be successful at this business it must be done. Shut Up and Write also means stop talking about writing and start actually writing. Kill the procrastinator inside you. Kill the lazy bastard writer and nurture the benevolent workaholic writer. He’s in there somewhere. Check the closet; he’s probably cowering in the back behind the shoes.

That being said, Twitter and Facebook are great companions for writers; they offer all kinds of advantages and connections and opinions and ideas, but as Kenny Rogers says, “You got to know when to fold ‘em …” and know when enough is enough. The words, the pages, your book is what’s important.

So, the sermon is over. Some of you may think I’m being whiny. Please excuse me; it's the hang-over talking.

Today, I nurse this headache and sip my tea (Advil, I love you!) due to the 7 cups of Wine and Vodka Sangria I had last night, I am functioning on that groggy half-minded plane we call Hang Over City. It’s mean stuff! But I’ve decided to write through it. Got some big plans today, and they all involve writing.

So, time to Shut Up and Write.

~ Keep Your Pen Poised

Related Madness:

A great post by @DreamsGrafter at Journey of a Screenwriter ~ What Does It Take to become a Successful Screenwriter?

Going Retro! Here's a great post explaining the profound nature of Shut Up And Write:

The Art of Mind: Shut Up and Write


  1. Love this! I got a netbook so I could leave the house and write. Which worked great while the kids were in school. Now I'm tethered to the turbo mini van. Hard enough to write blog posts with the living room filled with kids, can't even imagine writing fiction! So thanks for the kick in the butt!

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  2. I'm trying to kick my OWN butt too -- a mass butt kicking as it were.

    You Go! Lets thrown the wordage down and show them who's boss!

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  4. This post has hit home for me on so many levels. On the lighter side, I too am suffering badly from a hangover (even though it's seven in the evening!)I dusted off my killer heels last night and joined 25 other girls drinking Cosmos until the early hours for my friend's hens night.

    On the more serious side, I can completely empathise with what you're saying. I too love writing but find myself regularly making excuses to distract myself. These last few weeks I've been particularly lazy about my writing following a rejection. I know rejection is part and parcel of writing but on this occasion, the publisher had requested my full manuscript and I'd been feeling very positive about it. Such is life but it's filled me full of doubt about my abilities and hence the avoidance of writing anything more than 140 characters on Twitter!

    So when you see me on Twitter for any prolonged time, please feel free to tell me to 'shut up and write'. I promise I won't take offence.

    You see, you've now opened the floodgates and I can't seem to stop! Thank you for sharing such a lovely post. It's certainly given me food for thought.

    Maria x

  5. Not to be a punk or anything, but have you noticed how many blogs, sites, articles and book there are on writing? I wonder what the percentage of published texts about writing are in comparison to published texts of actual writing. That is, I see 100 blogs a day about how to write fiction, how to develop characters, how to stop procrastinating, and how to develop a brand or fan-base, but I don't see a lot of "finished chapter 7 today", if you know what I mean. It seems like the business of writing about writing has become the writing business itself. Yet we are all supposedly striving to be a published author of mystery or horror or sci-fi or fantasy or even non-fiction. I think some of us out there definitely need this advice; no, maybe most of us.

    Speaking of which, I wrote my latest installment of the serialized collaborative novel "Dorothy: Locked & Loaded" today -- feeling accomplished. Back to writing! I'll shut up now. :)

  6. The truth is, I feel like I blog about writing a little bit too much as well, but seeing as how that's the wheelhouse on which this blog was based, I have to make due.

    Having a blog about writing is fine -- as long as we're getting our REAL writing done in the process. I have noticed the few million blogs about writing, and I've had to really think about what makes my own voice unique so I don't fall into that blogging trap and become another voice quacking in the void.

    Thanks you for your wonderful comments, now Shut Up And Write!

  7. hehehehe Great post David. It's so true and it's home to a lot of us. Gotta luv twitter, I swear sooner or later we'll have to start a group for tweetaholics :P

    Take care of that headache would you. Your stories are demanding attention ;) Speaking of which, I should get back to mine.

  8. Oh dear this rings home too true! I have been having a day of moaning about my writing. If I'd just 'shut up and write' I might have managed to write a lot more!

    Your honesty has made me feel a lot better today - thank you!


  9. I wrote this post in the midst of an awful hang-over, which goes to show that anything is possible when we put our addled brains to it.

    I'm really glad I cheered you up, now Shut Up And Write! LOL

    Thanks for stopping by Kelly. Come again anytime.

  10. It's true that blogging is an easy excuse for not writing what we should write. But since I started blogging regularly (I keep my three posts per week) I often find myself thinking how easy is to write longer forms. True, blog posts are dirty easy to write, but there is a new theme every two days.

    On the other hand, writing a novel can be a stream of hours uninterrupted, once one get the flow. And after the first page or two it just goes on its own.

  11. I think this is a problem ALL writers have. Another being that we all talk about writing much more than we actually write...getting back to work now!

  12. I actually have to cast my vote in favor of you wasting time on Twitter, you're sooooo much fun. But, if it comes to you having that finished product I know I have to read, I will accept that you must #shutupandwrite.

    I must, too. I've taken a break from novel writing to do travel writing, but writing is writing. So, that common daydream writers have to go traveling with all the money they plan to make... I shutup and took one small step closer... Writers often get complimentary tickets when they ask... I'll be going to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival next, then I'll shut up and write my article about it.

    No, I'm not rolling in the dough, but that golden silence has started to buy me new opportunities in adventure and writing.

    Thanks for simplifying it. What most authors say in 1000s of words has been summed up in four by your friend and promoted by you. I needed that. Tell her, she's a genius.

    Shutting up now.

  13. Hehe nice. I need to print that out and post it in on my wall!

  14. I know what you mean - it's so easy to get distracted from the actual business of what we're here to do. This is why I do my writing on a Netbook on the tube - no signal means no Internet!

  15. Excellent post and very timely. I guess if we're reading it it means we should #shutupandwrite instead. Really, you can waste a lot of time twittering away, fbing and blogging, but I find them all stimulating - except I keep fb just for friends/family mainly. Hmm, just trashed the first chapter of my second novel and am going to concentrate on blogging, er, wrong, writing short fiction, for the time being. Instant gratification doesn't just have to be getting plastered on wine and vodka, hee #amwriting..:)

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