Sunday, January 2, 2011

 Time to Whoop Ass and Write

Well, we're into January, a new year, so time to make a few resolutions.  One of them being to actually get something done this year.  So I present to you, in hopes of motivating the both of us, the Official Shut Up and Write User Manual.  Sections and sub-sections are subject to change in future versions.  Have fun, take heart, and Shut Up and Write, will'ya?

At first glance the term ‘Shut up and Write’ may come off as rather crude and low-brow terminology; after all, our language is filled with plenty of subtle and elegant ways to communicate ideas. Seeing as how writers can be a little thick, sometimes we need to cut right through the bullshit and get right to the heart of the matter.

To wit: You talk too much. Shut up and write!

Shut Up And Write is a rather broad statement, of course, and is not meant to be rude, or mean, or insulting. It’s really just a humorous nudge, a reminder, that you’re wasting valuable oxygen yapping away or Tweeting to friends instead of writing. It also applies to people who talk a lot about writing, but don’t actually write. This is a problem, and must be corrected. Here then is a compendium of things you do that are stunting your writing, so you’ll know when to Shut Up And Write:

Staring at your computer screen – Do not do this. Type anything. Type your name, what you had for dinner, what color your socks are, but do not stare at that screen for longer than 5 minutes. Headaches ensue, and your soul turns to mush. Shut Up And Write.

Itchy Bum Syndrome: You type a sentence, and then go to the refrigerator for some Oreo Cookie Ice Cream, leaving your sentence hanging and your flow disrupted. Please do not do this. You could spill ice cream all over your computer, or get sticky fingers, or grow lethargic and apathetic and not want to write anymore. Oreo Cookie ice cream is great for the synapses, but bad for writing. Plus, this is not really about ice cream, it’s about not wanting to write, or being afraid to write. This is characterized by constant shifting of the ass in your chair and thoughts other than writing begin invading your skull (IE did I pay the phone bill? Should I take the dog for a walk? Why is there a mushroom cloud on the horizon, and should it concern me?)

Tweeting, Facebooking, Foursquaring, etc etc Blah blah blah – This is the bane of writers: Tweeting too much. I know it’s fun, and that guy named @ShitMyDadsays is endlessly hilarious, but come on! You gotta pull it together! Only you can prevent a book not being written! Unless you can get your pet Shitzu to write your book for you, it’s probably best to get a move on and start writing. I suggest curbing your 12 hours of Twitter down to, say, 2. There! Then you’ll have lots of time to write!

That stupid Television – Yeah, Jersey Shore is filled with entertaining idiots who make us feel exponentially more intelligent when we watch their antics, but Mike ‘The Situation” and "Snooki" already have book deals. If that doesn’t motivate you, nothing will!

The Stupid Blog hasn't been updated for 12 hours! Oh No! – The land of the damned! The blog is what I turn to when I’m not feeling the prose flow on my novel, but the problem is the blog is too easy, we could write posts in our sleep because it’s largely plotless and free association. If you find that you’re using your blog as a crutch for not writing, then rectify it immediately. Only blog after you have made a significant contribution to your novel.

Section 2, Article A: You Know You're In trouble as A Writer If ...

You start talking about your book, again, and your friend's eyes begin to roll upwards in exasperation and you hear these sentences all the time:

"God, just shut up and write a book already!"

"I'll take you seriously when you've written something."

"How can you be a writer? You haven't written anything!"

"Is that the little book you been working on? For 10 years? Are you gonna finish it sometime this century?"

Section 2, Article B:  Looking mournful while walking through a Chapters book store because your book isn't even finished, much less stacked in a display alongside Stephenie Meyers and Stephen King and Tom Clancy in a giant retail bookstore.

Okay this one is self-explanatory.

Section 3, Article A: Doubt fills your soul, so you just ... stop.

Common causes:

You think you suck.

The guy you got to Beta Read your manuscript has the IQ of a piece of wood and he only reads the backs of cereal boxes anyway. Yet you are devastated when he tells you there isn't enough sex or death in the book and he fell asleep after the first chapter.

Your friend looks at the manuscript in your hand and asks you dubiously how many pages they have to read because the longest thing they ever read was a Newspaper and they are unsure of it and are too lazy to actually do you a favor and read it for you (Friendship may be on rocky ground after this little encounter.) So you take it the only way a writer ever takes it: you suck.

Every word you type, every sentence you mangle, every phrase you torture, it's like being forced to listen to a John Denver greatest hits CD on repeat - Torture! Torture! But neither your writing, or John Denver, are that bad.  Stop the soul sucking doubt! Just shut up, keep writing, it'll all work out.

Section 3, Article B: It's not you, it's them. 

In conclusion it, it's wise to remember that nobody cares about you until you've written something, which is not to say you suck or you're useless, but merely talking about writing amounts to just that: talk. And, it's not you, it's them. People are results oriented; it is the rare human being (usually an elderly person, or an extremely positive and enlightened and inebriated Uncle) who will take you at your word that you are writing a book, will finish the book, will become rich and famous because of that book. The human race is wary by nature; so you must prove to the sneering jerk at your office that one day you too will wear elbow patches and smoke a pipe and do the lecture circuit talking about your book. This is the only way! You must Shut Up and Write!

Related Madness: 
ShutUpAndWrite: A Master's thesis


  1. I beg to differ. John Denver is that bad. But otherwise, awesome post!

  2. Holy Cow...this is the PERFECT speech to ring in my new year. Loved how you broke down the bookstore blues, the non-reading friends anguish, and the just start already-itus.
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  3. Dear ZT:

    I was trying to be kind to Mister Denver in light of his tragic plane crash, but yeah, his stuff was pretty lame (Sorry John!)

  4. I beg to differ with some of this just because of the length of time I've been writing and what I've been writing and whatnot. I've been working on the same project for ten years {or it will be this Fall}, but I still have to figure out if I'm writing it for my own entertainment or if I'm writing it for other people. In that ten years, I've also graduated high school, gotten married, started college and lived life. I don't feel the itch of having to clear 1,000 pages a day if I'm still trying to figure out what I want to major in in college.

    As for my updating my blog, I don't have many readers, but that's how I vent. That's how I can get through the day without needing to pop a pill every hour {and that is what my doctor prescribed pretty much}.

    It may be different for other people, but I can't just shut up and write. I need to do something other than write sometimes. I'm 25 and if 30 something year olds married parents are churning out these YA books, then I have a little more time to live my life.

    It's a well written piece and I know that #shutupandwrite is great for many people. I'm just not one of those people that it would be great for.

  5. Fair point. I think this movement is not for everyone; some are self-starters, self-motivators, and don't need this kind of prompting.

    But there are those who do need a gentle and humorous kick in the butt sometimes, just to get things moving again, to get the words flowing.

    Thanks for stopping by Natasha, your comments are always appreciated =)

  6. Way to welcome in the New Year. I'm shutting up to write.


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