The pro writer

The key to what it takes is found in Dorothea Brande's seminal work, "Becoming a Writer".

In a nutshell it's this:

You have to be able to write on demand: any time, any place.

And the key to being able to do this is the same for anything you want to get good at:

PRACTICE.

I've found the exercise she suggests for developing this skill to be excellent:

a) nominate an exact time of day when you will write

b) when that time arrives, stop whatever you're doing and write for 15 minutes straight

And you don't stop writing for anything - not even to look at what you've written. It doesn't have to be good writing, it just has to be writing.

I've been doing the exercise lately and it's been a real eye-opener. For starters, 15 minutes is a long time! Seriously, it takes real effort to keep typing non-stop for 15 minutes. But I can also see that it's developing something really important. Two things actually. No, three:

a) stamina - you get physically stronger and, as Dorothea says, once the actual act of writing becomes less arduous, it's less distracting from what you're trying to say

b) "subconscious" writing - because you can't stop, you end up "blurting" and some surprising stuff comes out, stuff that was previously sitting in your sub-conscious only

c ) concentration - you might be on a train or at a park or in a cafe…you have to just stop and do your 15 minutes regardless. You very quickly learn to ignore distractions!

"But what do you actually write about?" you ask.

It doesn't matter. Just pick a topic and make yourself write about it for 15 minutes. A few examples from my own practice are:
  • painting a wall
  • owning a dog 
  • middle-aged men 
  • speeding through roadworks. 
When you start, you think there's no way you'll be able to write for 15 minutes about the topic. But you always can. With the "painting a wall" topic for example, I only got as far as "going to Bunnings to get new paintbrushes" before my 15 minutes was up! And I type pretty fast - around 50 wpm - so I churned out 750+ words in that time.

If you're serious about becoming a "pro" - not necessarily a paid writer, but simply one who can write on demand - give this method a go. I think you'll find it will yield results pretty quickly.

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