Today's Completely Unrelated Supplement: My Top Ten Crushes from Teen Movies
Crush #10: Mr. Coulson (Michael Vartan) — Even though it was creepy, because he was kind of her teacher.
I met my big deadline, so I'm back in the real world. I think this is a good week to dip into some writing questions. Might as well start with THE BIG ONE.
Before I begin, a caveat. As enormously happy as I am to have received writing questions, I just want to make one thing clear: Like everything I say on this blog, take what I say with a grain of salt. I don't believe anything I have to say about anything (especially writing) is some kind of Great Truth.
I am a novice. I struggle — I struggle a lot — and I'm still learning. So please don't think that I believe I'm some kind of, say, Neil Gaiman. If Neil Gaiman gives you writing advice, TAKE IT.
Well. Let's just say it's debatable.
But I do want to help! And I hope that maybe something I say helps someone. Somewhere. Sometime.
Okie dokie. Now that that's over with, I feel comfortable moving forward with today's question.
Crush #9: Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck) — Yes, I liked him more than Ferris. This probably doesn't surprise you.
Cassity (Hi! Lovely to find you in my comments!) asked:
I would love to write, but I am not very disciplined. I have a hard time making myself actually write. What do you do?
This was the first question I was asked, and it is — without a doubt — the hardest.
I have heard of (and personally know) writers who love nothing better than to sit down to a blank computer screen and have at it. Who have no problem filling every spare moment of their day with glorious, glorious typing. Who write several pages a day, multiple novels a year.
I am not one of these writers.
The truth is, I'm not very disciplined either, and I have a very difficult time making myself write. As ludicrous as it sounds, for me, the act of writing itself is the hardest part about being a writer.
Now . . . don't get me wrong. It's not that I don't want to.
I love stories. I love getting that first tick of an idea and rolling around in it. Letting it grow bigger and deeper and wilder. Dreaming up layers and twists and themes. Pulling inspiration from the world that surrounds me, both the real (neighbors, friends, strangers) and the unreal (television, cinema, novels). And above all, I love characters — creating them, growing them, and falling deeply in love with them.
Like all writers, I am an idea MACHINE. But how do I actually get these ideas out of my head and into the physical world?
With a great, big, ugly fight.
It's challenging to give advice on this subject, because what works for me won't always work for you. (I mean, let's face it. What works for me once rarely even works for me twice.)
But what you should know, first-and-above-all, is that I've found writing to be like any other type of exercise: the more often I do it, the easier it is to do it again the next day. And conversely, the more time I allow between writing sessions, the harder it gets to sit down with it again. The idea of writing gets more intimidating. More hopeless. More terrifying.
Sometimes, it also gets boring. I'll think about my project SO MUCH that I'll get tired of it. I'll convince myself that there's nothing worthwhile about it, and I start chasing the shiny new idea. And then that pattern repeats itself. And then nothing ever gets finished.
There is no great solution to these problems.
But here are eight things you can try:
Crush #8: Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) — How can a girl resit the above scene?(1) Obtain an ally, someone to FORCE you to write.
This says a lot about the kind of person I am that I'm actually listing this one first. It's not exactly something to brag about, but for me, it's crucial. I need people to expect something of me. Sometimes this is a family member (cough – Jarrod — cough) and sometimes it's a friend.
Usually it's both. And multiple friends, not just one. Like, an entire SQUADRON of friends, because I require a Stadium-Sized Cheering Section to perform. (I'm not proud to admit that, but there you go.)
Anyway, it's a good idea to get someone on your side. It could be anyone — in the writing community or out of it — but it must be someone who understands that writing is IMPORTANT to you, and under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should they allow you to dissuade them from forcing you to do it.
Yes. You read that correctly.
What I mean is, sometimes you need a stronger person to demand that you go write. And to DO IT NOW. And to NOT TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER. If my husband hadn't literally pushed me into my desk chair and shut the door (while I was crying and sobbing and begging him to let me come back downstairs), I would have never finished Anna. Period.
Crush #7: Josh (Paul Rudd) — He was in college. And he listened to Radiohead.
(2) Schedule writing onto your calendar, like any other appointment or event.
I have heard this helps people.
Me? Not so much, as I am not the world's best daily calendar checker. I'm lucky to know what day of the week it is, let alone an actual date, let alone actual plans for that date.
But maybe YOU are great with calendars.
The point is to find a time for writing and then to stick to it. Schedule it in and don't erase the date or time for ANYONE. Writing is important, just as important as that dentist appointment you scheduled six months ago.
Don't belittle it. It IS important.
Crush #6: David (Kiefer Sutherland) — The only recorded case in history of a guy with a mullet who is also way smokin' hot.
(3) Create a writing pattern (every morning or evening, or so many minutes spread throughout the day).
This is similar to number two, and it's also related to my earlier idea that writing is like exercise, and the more you make it a habit, the easier it'll be.
Are you a morning person or a night person? If you write during your favorite time of day — the time when your brain is the most active — you'll have MUCH better results. But if your schedule is too busy to set aside one large-ish chunk of time, set a minutes goal. Start with forty minutes a day, broken up however necessary. And if that works for you, try bumping it up to an hour of writing per day. Or if forty minutes is too much, bump it down. Just find something that works. Keep trying.
Crush #5: Lane Meyer (John Cusack) — BEST. TEEN. MOVIE. EVER.
(4) Set reasonable goals, but go easy on yourself if you can't meet them.
I love goals and deadlines. I work SO MUCH BETTER with them. But, on occasion, I've turned them into my enemy. How? By beating myself up when I didn't meet them. Don't do this. Keep your goals reasonable. Adjust them if necessary.
And ditch them if they're making you upset.
I'm very hard on myself, and this has been tough to learn. I'm still working on it. But you know what? It's okay to fail sometimes. It's okay. It's okay.
Just keep trying.
Just keep trying.
Crush #4: Mark (Ethan Embry) — Silly dreamy rocker boy. Remember the Gwar scene? SO AWESOME.
(5) Reward yourself with treats.
Yeah. I said it.
Meet a goal? Buy yourself a box of Godiva chocolates! Or a new album on iTunes! Or a night at the movies! Whatever makes your toes tingle. (Free things are great too — picnics by waterfalls, an afternoon with a good novel, a long bubble bath, etc. Kiersten sometimes rewards me with YouTube videos featuring actors with Scottish accents.)
Just set the reward ahead of time. That way you have something to look forward to, and you also won't get carried away when you get there. ("I know I said I'd only buy this one pair of shoes, but these blue ones are sooo cute too.") NO! DO NOT DO THIS. This leads to guilt, which leads to negative feelings associated with reaching your goal. Keep goal-reaching a celebration!
Crush #3: Cliff Pantone (Jesse Bradford) — If Jarrod and I could double date Cliff and his sister ("Missy, is it?"), we totally would.
(6) Freewrite before you write-write.
If the act of sitting down and writing a novel is too scary, start with some freewriting first. Have a second document on your computer where you can begin your writing session. Tell yourself hello and chat about what you want to write that day. Or freewrite about how terrified you are that you'll fail. Or about how freakishly horrible your novel is, how rock-solidly hard it blows, and how no one will want to read it EVER even if they are stuck on a desert island and their only choice of reading material is either YOUR NOVEL or a dermatologist's free pamphlet about psoriasis.
Eventually, you'll get so tired of your own whining that you'll actually go write something.
I know from experience. I have tens of thousands of freewriting words telling myself how much both my novels and me suck. That negative energy has to come out somewhere, and freewriting is a safe place to say the things you're most afraid of — and to wake your brain up in the process.
Crush #2: Duckie (Jon Cryer) – Duckie REQUIRES a video. This is one of my favorite scenes in any movie EV-ERRRR. (Please ignore the Spanish in the first few seconds)
(7) Give something up.
If it's about time ("I'd love to write, but I don't have the time"), then break down your schedule, hour-by-hour, and find out what you're actually DOING with your time. Maybe there are a few hours of television you can cut out. Maybe you can cut back on your reading or time online. (I know, I know. But sometimes it's necessary.) Or maybe you need to cut back on the social engagements.
You don't want to cut out everything in your life that gives you pleasure, but you'll have to cut something. It stinks, but that's the reality of it.
[The wise-and-always-interesting John Scalzi recently wrote about this subject: "What You Have to Give Up to Write"]
Furthermore . . .
(AND THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT IDEA IN THIS WHOLE POST)
Crush #1: Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) — I mean, it's Lloyd Dobler. He's like numbers two through ten combined. Times fifty.
(8) If you want to be a serious writer, treat it like the job that it is.
Writing a novel — a publishable novel — takes work. Real, actual, hard WORK.
This requires an attitude adjustment from, "Oh, what a fun little hobby" to "I will DO this. Even when it gets hard, even when I don't like it anymore, even when I want to give up. I will keep working until I reach the end."
[Great article on the subject of hard work: "The Truth About Grit."]
The good news about all this?
Sitting down to write gets easier with practice.
A little bit.
(And then it gets harder, and then easier, and then harder, and then so impossible that you'll sink into a deep pit of despair and hate everything about your life and feel like the most miserable, wretched failure of all time, and then easier. And then hard again.)
I fight this battle every day. Sometimes I win, but most of the time I lose. But that doesn't mean I ever give up.
You have to keep trying.
Because in the end, the ONLY way to write . . . is to sit down. And do it.