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Monday, November 02, 2009


Listen you guys . . . I am about to lay something critical on you. I am probably not supposed to be telling you this. I am going to get myself in trouble with the League of Real Writers. But you know that I am always compelled to tell you the truth. I won’t tell everyone, but I will tell YOU, friends. Just you. So here goes.

If you want to be a Real Writer, you must learn the fine art of the excuse. Observe:

So, you know how I said yesterday, on the first day of NaNoWriMo, that I would try to give advice EVERY DAY? Well, you may have to cut me SOME slack this week because I am moving tomorrow. Everything I own is in boxes, and after I finish writing this, my desk is going to be taken away and I will have NOTHING. And the cable appointment got messed up so I won’t even have my own internet until sometime on Thursday, so until then I’ll be sneaking around my new building trying to bogart some signal through the walls. Hopefully no one will paint with that special paint that blocks signals, and everyone will have nice, non-password-protected wifi.

Plus, I just found out that the new desk doesn’t come until Friday, so until then I will be a DESKLESS FREAK with NO SIGNAL in a WORLD OF BOXES. Plus my mailbox key doesn’t work. And I have to get this thing for my intercom. And I have to go out and all kinds of STUFF so that I can live like a normal person, like a shiny new trashcan. You guys—I NEED A TRASHCAN.

So this week is a bit special. But will I TRY? Oh, I will try! But if service is a little on and off for a few days, that is why.*

Now, you see, that is a pretty solid excuse. Moving your entire house and not having anywhere to sit and having to let movers in and shove boxes around and not having a buzzer or a key or any clothes or a trashcan . . . sometimes, life happens, and you have to deal with the life stuff completely. Many of you will face a few days this month that are simply so full or otherwise out of control that you won’t be able to write. And that’s fine. Those days often give you something to write ABOUT.

And also? You make up for it. Because when it comes to meeting the mark, aim for NO EXCUSES. Now, I realize that this probably seems like it runs counter to my previous statements about excuses, but hear me out. You have to allow for bumps and problems and days that are just slow or rough going. You can and will make up for them. For all the days I have been moving, I have found and replaced the time in my writing schedule, because my book is still due when it is due. It will still get done at the same time. If you get sick and miss a few days, if you start late, if you have to go away for a weekend, if someone needs your help, if you house is swept away in a tornado and you land in a magical kingdom . . . don’t worry. You’ll get back on track JUST LIKE ME.

Now, let’s get to today’s question.

Rachel asks: I've always loved writing and definitely consider becoming an author a goal of mine, this said, I think it would be a good idea for me to do NaNoWriMo. However, I don't think I have the time to do it (high school is way to stressful) and don't have a clear outline of a book ready at all. I have an idea for a book but I don't know if I like it or where it's going. Should I attempt it, knowing I'll probably fail, or not have the time necessary to complete it, or do it anyways?

I think you should definitely do it. Here is why:

1. No one has the time. (See above story for clarification, and just pretend I never said that part about missing a few days.**) You make the time if you want to write. If you do not want to write, you do not make the time. So if your goal is to become an author, start giving the time now.

2. No one knows what they are doing when they start out. Before you write a book, you do not know how to write a book. Catchy, and true.

3. There is no way of putting this delicately, so I am just going to shove it out there . . . if you are in high school or are otherwise just starting out, MUCH OF WHAT YOU WRITE IS GOING TO SUCK. This is because you learn to write while writing. So for a while, you have to embrace the Suckmonster. Hug it close to you. Love your Suckmonster, because your Suckmonster is going to help you get where you want to go. He is your friend and traveling companion. He’s friendly and furry and Muppet-like. Picture him clearly in your head now. Take a moment.

Do you see the Suckmonster? Isn’t he cute? Why not give your Suckmonster a name? That should kill a few minutes!

You have a friend. He's right there with you!

See, where the Suckmonster roams, progress is often made. A good sentence here, a clear idea there, maybe a great paragraph, and then a great page. But first, you have to try, and you cannot fear or avoid the Suckmonster. Because his presence doesn’t indicate failure. Every good writer I know has a friendly Suckmonster on a leash.

Really, the only way you can fail is not even trying in the first place. So don’t worry about how much you like it or where it’s going . . . just START.

I hope that encourages you, and that if necessary, I can come and live in your house. Until . . . soon. And please, continue to send your QUESTIONS.

* This means if I DO succeed, you should be extra impressed.
** Because, no, seriously . . . I AM MOVING. And I have totally done my 50,000 words many times over. If a marathon runner needed three days to get, like, a new FOOT BONE or something, would you give them @#$%? No. Of course you wouldn’t.

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Blogger azuyomi244 said...

my suckmonster looks like hungry from those comicials

7:22 PM  
Blogger kira902k said...

Seriously, you give the best advice ever. And you manage to still be amusing as you give it.
Thank you! I was worrying about exactly that.

My question:
Do you listen to music as your write? Or do you need silence? Do you eat while you write? Or not? Can you multi-task (write while being on Twitter? Wait...you probably can.)
Just wondering.

Your advice is amazing and helpful. Lately, I've been chased by the Suckmonster, and he almost made me lose faith in myself as a writer. Now you've taught me to stop running and embrace my suckmonster as a way to learn how to be better.
thanks. :P


7:27 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

'I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine. And he shall be my Squishy' And then he stings. Bloody Suckmonster.

Thank you for making me not feel bad about the crap that I write :).
That's all really, I don't know what to aks. Thank you.

7:57 PM  
Blogger Marisa Birns said...

Not doing NaNo. So why am I here? Was just walking along and tripped over your blog. I do try writing everyday so your encouragement still works, right?

Thanks for heads up on the Suckmonster!

I'm staying with my sister in a really cool Village apartment. Could ask if she'd mind another visitor.

She is a bit of a curmudgeon, though.

Thanks for your post.

Gotta go. Have to START!

8:21 PM  
Blogger celi.a said...

I don't get the bit about the new foot bone. ???

Other than that, this post was wonderful (and hilarious!). Thanks!

8:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have an empty Film School you can live in. There's 11 empty rooms... well, 10, I'm sleeping in one! But it has wifi. :D

8:33 PM  
Blogger Rob (9thDoc) said...

What are the names/ appearances of your and Mr. Green's suckmonsters?

8:55 PM  
Anonymous Jason Black said...

Excuses, no excuses. Totally true.

I'm also a political junkie, so last year I spent so much time and energy in early November on the election that after it was over I was totally burned out.

I attended a NaNo kickoff write-in on halloween at midnight, banged out a thousand words, and went home to bed.

Then I didn't touch my novel for 11 days. Yes, 11 whole days. That's about 20,000 words in NaNoWriMo years. Or whatever.

But MJ's right. You make up for it. I made some new goals. Got out a spreadsheet to figure out where I needed to be every day till the end of the month, and I did it. I made it to 50k despite taking more than a third of the entire month off.

If you want to be a Real Writer, you have to cut yourself some slack but in the end there are no excuses. You get it done.

9:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm having problems filling my story. My first chapter is currently only 5 pages long. :-/ How to I fill my story out without losing the point of it?

10:56 PM  
Blogger Sarrrah said...

To think that THE MAUREEN JOHNSON has a suckmonster much like my own...

Mine's purple, just thought I'd throw that out there.

Q: What happens if NaNoWriMo ends and we don't have 50,000 words? Do the suckmonsters attack, or is that the job of another band of cute, slightly dangerous creature?

1:08 AM  
Blogger jem said...

I, like kira902k, was wondering about music. do you listen to it while you write? do you listen to it before, to get you in the mood, like athletes do before games? is there anything you do to prepair yourself for writing?

1:44 AM  
Blogger Icy Roses said...

I love your NaNo advice. I'm a lurker, but I'm going to de-lurk today.

How do YOU avoid the Internet during writing time? Because let's all admit it. The Internet is the biggest enemy to writing. The Internet and everything else that is going on in the world that suddenly becomes horribly fascinating when you open up a document.

Can you tell I'm procrastinating right now? 600 words left for today! I can do it! Just have to go read another blog first...

2:37 AM  
Blogger Meghan said...

I know what you're saying and I admit to being extremely pedantic here, but even though early work is often rather rough I wouldn't say it sucks. Doing something that makes you happy should be first priority. Unless you're making a living off it, then that's a whole other can of worms.

4:23 AM  
Anonymous Roxanne said...

Is there a Procrastination Monster as well? Or a Distraction Monster? Sometimes I feel that I need to stop writing for a little while and after a while, I plug my mind back into writing. I was wondering what could get me to stop getting distracted when writing because, as much as I love to write, there is a lot that distracts me from writing.

4:35 AM  
Blogger Victoria said...

My Suckmonster is ADORABLE.
Thank you for this advice! You are so incredibly made of awesome. =D

7:21 AM  
Blogger ActorGirl said...

I just switched from a laptop PC to a MacBook and am getting used it. On your MacBook what program do you use to write? I can't decide which word processing program will work best. Also do you do most of your writing on your MacBook or your desktop computer?

I am distracted from Nanowrimo by thinking of these things...or I'm looking for answers put verbatim into my novel ;)

7:47 AM  
Anonymous SarahE said...

I still haven't decided whether or not to do NaNoWriMo. I actually have the beginning of a story, but not plot. So I am supposed to keep writing and hope desperately that one will finally emerge, compliments of my Suckmonster, or do I wait until I know what happens and then begin? As you say, little high school student me will probably write a lot of utter crap anway, so is it worth it for my sanity this month? Just tell me what to DO, mj. You're my only hope. :)

9:39 AM  
Blogger Shelly Quade said...

How do you create characters? Do you fill out those questionnaires that some people do? Do the characters just pop into your head fully formed? Do you talk to your characters as you walk around New York (And if so, has anyone ever taken you to a hospital)? Just HOW? Process? Creative Genius?

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my sister's walked in on me a couple times when i was talking to myself.
I know my writing sucks, but i'll deal with the Suckmonster when i'm done with my zero draft

6:27 AM  

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