Butt in Chair: This Isn't Always Good Advice

Monday, June 17, 2013
Put your butt in the chair and write.  Just do it.  Quit whining! 
We hear this advice all the time from all kinds of writers.  They tell us that only by applying ourselves day in and day out can we become writers. 
I agree but only to a point.  After all, you do have to develop your writing skills and you’re only going to do that by actually writing.  In spite of this, sometimes Butt in Chair is really bad advice. 
Recently, I got together for coffee with a writing buddy.  She had recently sent three chapters off to an editor we met at a writer’s retreat.  “I just can’t make myself write!  It feels like everything I do makes the manuscript worse.” 
My advice to her?  Then don’t write.
In my experience, if you feel like you are making a writing project worse, you probably are.  Even if you aren’t making it worse, you probably aren’t making it any better.  Get up and get away from your work. What you do next depends in part on what is going on in your writing life. 
  • Have you been writing a lot lately?  Had some big deadlines to meet? You may just need to recharge your batteries.  Do something fun and non-writing related.  Meet a writing buddy for coffee. Chocolate is also awesome. Swim laps. Go to a gallery. Do whatever non-writing thing makes you happy. 
  • Did this case of “I can’t write” follow a rejection?  Show the rejection to a writing friend and ask for her perspective.  My friend had just gotten a rejection, but there were no comments.  For a seasoned writer, this can ring just as many alarm bells as harsh comments, but a writing friend can talk you down.
  • Have you been working on this project for a while?  Sometimes we lose track of why we loved a certain idea once we are deep in the drudgery of writing.  If this could be the case, go back to whatever inspired this particular project.  See the movie again.  Visit the museum.  Reread the news story.  Often this reignites the spark for a particular project.
  • Did you just find another book too similar to your own project? Don’t panic until you’ve read it.  I know this sounds counterproductive, but if you are competitive, read the competition.  How can your book be better?  Once you have this goal in sight, the words often start flowing once again.

There is no single cause for a case of “my manuscript stinks,” but there are solutions.  You just need to find the one that will work for you.

Sue Bradford Edwards blogs at One Writer's Journey.


Sioux Roslawski said...

SueBE--For sure, we have to balance things. All writing and nothing else makes us dull and empty.

(And sometimes too much time with our butt in our chair makes for a wide, fat butt. ;)

Karen Wojcik Berner said...

That's an excellent point, Sue. Sometimes, it's getting the butt out of the chair, doing something else, and clearing one's mind that dislodges the cobwebs.

Margo Dill said...

Finding the source is a great idea. I am thinking that more and more lately. Figure out goals first, before you write/market. Figure out what is blocking you or wasting your time BEFORE you give up or try to fix it. Otherwise it's like trying to fix a car with broken brakes by giving it an oil change. :) (How about that for a car similie?)

Anonymous said...

And I just feel better when I get up and move and I focus better. Hard to find a down side to that!

Love the car simile and that is just so true. Know what your fixing before you try to fix it.


Angela Drake said...

Great tips!BIC HOK has a place. But sometimes it is just as important to know when to step away and gain a new perspective. We all need a vacation once in awhile.
Happy Writing and Blessings!

Marcia Peterson said...

How nice to get some advice that gives permission to take a break. ;) It really does help sometimes and it's ok to give it to ourselves.

LuAnn Schindler said...

Agree! Sometimes, you have to get out of the chair and gain some perspective.

Thanks for the reminder.

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