You don't need to be a genius to know that most worthwhile things in life tend to take longer, and need much more work than we wish. (Pool hustling and s'mores-making being the obvious exceptions.)
Thanks to the scholarship of John Leland we now know that there was a great deal more labor involved in On the Road than the scroll myth would have us believe. And more recently, Junot Diaz's breakthrough novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, may have wowed us with its wit and verve, but it actually took sixteen years of sweat for Diaz to write a book which was so effortless to read.
So, how about channeling Flannery O'Connor who wrote this letter to a young writer back in 1957: "I'm a full-time believer in writing habits, pedestrian as it all may sound. You may be able to do without them, but most of us only have talent and this is something that simply has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away."
This Week's Exercise for Key-Bangers:
More glamorous exercises to come later, but first ...come up with three two-hour blocks of time, or two three-hour blocks as your weekly "writing hours". Make every effort to show up, just like you would for a class, or your own book party, dagnabbit! Good luck, scribes, and report in to all of us on how it's going. Remember we're writers; we're a gang not a club.
Editor's Note: Jill is a writing coach, a freelance editor and teaches writing and editing at New York University. Her forthcoming book, Bang the Keys: Four Steps to a Lifelong Writing Practice will be published this August. For more: www.bangthekeys.com.
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