Liars Club

Advice That’s Just Right

by Merry Jones on May 15, 2010

in Advice for Writers,Liars Club Events,Uncommitted

Two words: Just write.

This advice is especially good because it’s easy to remember. Two syllables. Nothing complicated. No magic, mythology or muses involved. Certainly, this is not the only advice that has helped me. But make no mistake; those two simple syllables pack power. They don’t debate. Don’t quibble. Don’t back down in the face of arguments, excuses, shortages of self-confidence, tendencies to procrastinate or any other in a vast legion of obstacles.

Just write.

My husband says this to me whenever The Doubts hit. Doubts about my abilities, doubts about a specific manuscript. Doubts about the state of publishing, bookselling, reading, writing, literacy, the economy. About changing technology and its impact on books. About the purpose of the work, its intrinsic value—

Just write.

He says it when I feel overwhelmed by all the things besides writing that I should be doing; he says it when I’m overwhelmed by whatever I’m writing at the time. He says it when my characters begin to rebel against me and I have trouble reining them in. And when they become limp and uninteresting, or cloying, or predictable. He says it when I don’t know how to untangle a snafu in the plot. And sometimes he says it when he doesn’t know what else to say and is probably sick of dealing with my issues about this gift/curse/profession/obsession called writing.

Just write.

But I have to vacuum—The house is a mess.

Just write.

But I have no ideas.

Just write.

I’m no good; my ideas suck.

Just write.

It’s late. It’s early. The dog threw up. I have to make dinner. The lawn needs mowing. The car needs new brakes. We need to plan our retirement.

Just write.

Strong and simple, those words prevail. They become a mantra, something internalized that I now can hear even when he’s not actually saying it:

Just write.

I suspect that many of those who write do so not merely because they want to, but also because they have to. Some of us are compelled to spew words; if we don’t—If we stifle our voices and don’t let our words out, they collect in our minds, building pressure, volcano-like inside us until, whether literally or figuratively, our heads explode.

And that may be the best reason of all to follow this deceptively easy-sounding, often difficult to follow advice:

Just write.

Merry Jones is the author of eleven books, including the Zoe Hayes mystery series, The Nanny Murders, The River Killings, The Deadly Neighbors, and The Borrowed and Blue Murders

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