Pep Talk from Ralph Peters

Dear Authors,

The Shining may be the best film ever made about being a writer—not because Jack Nicholson’s character went bonkers, but because he had the work ethic it takes to build a career. Sure, he just typed “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” thousands of times. But he worked every single day—even when the creative juices weren’t flowing.

I’ve never bought into the self-indulgent notion of writer’s block, a grown-up version of “The dog ate my homework.” The fact is that some people have nothing to say and will never be writers. But if you need inspiration, try perspiration. If you’re meant to write, you’ll write. Sure, we’re all stymied from time to time, struggling over how best to shape a character or how to bring a crucial scene to life. But the best way to confront such problems is to sit down and start typing. Things happen when you make them happen.

Sure, it’s gorgeous out, your friends are partying and there are errands that need to be run right now. Or there’s more research to do, or another urgent email that needs a response. There’s always an excuse not to write—but if you make a habit of grabbing excuses, you’ll never become a pro. Better to type up slop, throw it away, and start again the next morning, than to duck your daily battle with the keyboard.

There have been days when I just could not bring myself to sit down at the computer, but such days have been rare. More often, I may not feel like chaining myself to my desk, but I sit down and get to work, anyway. I’m a writer. This is my job. Often, I’ve wanted to quit but stuck to the mission… only to find, after many a barren hour, that I’d written something so good I asked myself the most satisfying question a writer can spit out: “Jeez, where did that come from?”

Many an aspiring writer is just in love with a glammed-up idea of being an author, but not enthused about the actual work. Well, the only way to learn to write is to write (and to write a lot). Don’t be a phony: sit down and get started. Even if you just type, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Writing is wretched, discouraging, physically unhealthy, infinitely frustrating work. And when it all comes together it’s utterly glorious.

In these last days of NaNoWriMo, get to work.


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