Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Time to Write

Meggie Tolkland
If you'll forgive me for sounding like an old coot, during my 30 years of professional writing, I've learned one truth.
The good news? Anybody can become a great writer, talented or not.
The bad news? Becoming a great writer takes prolonged hard work and discipline.
This blog is ostensibly about finding time to write, but it's really about making writing your top priority. If you can't do that, writing's not for you. But if you can't live without the worlds in your head, it's easy to make time, regardless of how busy you are.
Start now. I can't overemphasize the urgency of this advice. Writing a first novel will take at least a year. Most writers claim you won't sell your first novel; I did, after revising it in places 30 to 40 times. Either way, selling a novel may take years. The production process is similarly slow.
This epic process, though, still breaks down into little steps. If time seems tight, create a goal to write 15 minutes a day. After a week, increase that to 20 minutes a day. After another week, write 25 minutes a day. Then, if you miss a day, tell yourself, "Oh, well. In four days this week, I made up the equivalent of one day last week, so I didn't miss any time at all."
  • Take your laptop with you, and write during kids' rehearsals and practices.
  • Waiting at the doctor's office? Write.
  • Before I drift to sleep, I tell my kids I visit my "imaginary world"--really, the staging ground for my next book. If an idea is awesome enough, I jot it down with a pencil and pad I keep in my bedside table.
  • While you're driving, concoct writing ideas, and scribble them at stoplights.
  • When you sit before a keyboard, type on your manuscript, and stop for no reason. If you experience writers' block, ask yourself what your problem really is. Here's a secret:
Writers' block doesn't exist. The most frequent culprit is perfectionism or fear of failure. Don't be scared. Have you memorized Shakespeare's entire catalogue? Of course not. Shakespeare wrote a gazillion words, some sublime, some clunkers. People, if you write a lot, you'll improve your chances of creating soaring prose. You need practice to improve, and with practice, your first drafts will improve.
  • If you procrastinate writing, pick another pastime. If you don't experience the urgency to write and the conviction you're destined to, you won't endure the countless rejections all professional writers inevitably experience. Or--be realistic with your goals. Maybe your goal isn't to write the Great American Novel; perhaps it's to entertain your family, itself a high and worthwhile endeavor.
But be your own best friend. If you miss a few days, simply resume your good habits, and congratulate yourself. You're making your dream come true, something most people never do.

I invite you to fall in love with my dream come true: The Mayhem: Roan's Story. You can order a paperback at To buy the e-book on Kindle, go to
The book is also available at Northwest Indiana's public libraries. Alternatively, readers can enter to win a free copy on Goodreads at and at

My mentor told me, "Writers always help each other," and I invite you to e-mail me at can also friend me at, connect with me on LinkedIn, and on Twitter @MeggieTolkland. You can also sign up for my free newsletter at

Meggie Tolkland
Dangerous romantic fantasy


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