The Butt-in-the-Chair Approach

Oh, Library Card, how do I love you?  You are by far the best invention ever made.  That and croutons (“Dry bread, yes, please!  On lettuce I think”).  I have a whole stack of books on writing and blogging that I’ve picked up from the library recently.  I’m on a first name basis with several of the librarians there now.  Hello Lois, Jeff, and Cindy!  Today’s favorite is entitled, The Writer’s Idea Book by Jack Heffron.  It’s filled with hundreds of writing prompts that provoke the author to search inside yourself and journal about various milestones, small moments, emotions and draw from that to use it in your work.  There are also lots of practices on describing places or characters or objects.

One of the first things he discusses is the Butt-in-the-Chair Approach, because as so many of you other writers have said out there, showing up is half the battle.  You’ve got to make time to write and to get good at it.  But, if you’re worried, he’s got prompts in the book for that too!

My favorite new prompt from the book so far is this:  Pick a time frame, sit down.  You don’t have to write, but you can’t do anything else.

Wow, people.  I must have been running on hyperdrive, because the notion of sitting down and just thinking hadn’t occurred to me!  I am a horrendous ever punctual multi-tasker.  I can never just sit for lunch, I must fill out reports/reply to email/correct associate clocking mistakes.  I can’t just watch a movie, I must sew coat buttons back on, make the grocery list, also try to write a novel.  Ah ha!

Diagnosis:  extreme time management overdose

Cure:  forced thinking cap retreats

If you give yourself, say 30 minutes, to just sit down and not do anything but write, if you want to, I’ll think you’ll find it helpful.  I was worried I would hate it.  But that’s what I do anyway!  Only I would be doing it while watching a movie, while making a sandwich, while talking to someone in the other room!  If I give myself the time to think about my writing, and not allow myself to do anything else, I inevitably pick up the pen and start jotting things down.

Here’s one more prompt I really liked.  Maybe it will spark a story, or a poem, or a blog entry of your own.

Prompt: Mona Simpson begins her story “Lawns” with the sentence “I steal.”  Begin a story or essay or poem or journal entry with the line “I _______.”  Push forward from there.  If you can think of one action that speaks to who you are, what would it be?  Write at least a few paragraphs.  Try this experiment a few times, using different actions.

What do you think your one action line would be?  (Right now, I’m thinking…”I eat,” because it’s dinner time ;))

Or what “writer epiphany” moments have you had recently?

Also, check out Kristen Lamb‘s new blog post.  It’s exactly what you need if you’re having problems prioritizing like me.  Trust me, you’ll love this!

6 responses

  1. I’m not big on “how to write” books, though, I must say, I really enjoyed Jack Heffron’s, Idea Book. I refer back to it a lot when I need a prompt.

  2. I’m so glad you’re finding a way to work that works for you. When you’re first starting writing, it can be hard to know what works and what doesn’t. And find time to write is very much like the process of writing itself. It takes practice. The more you do it the easier it will get.
    I’m rooting for you all the way.

  3. Also: My action line would be, “I fall.” I think I could go somewhere with that.

  4. You’ve already stopped by my blog today, so you know that I’m great at the sitting down part. The writing part, on the other hand… 😉

    My action line would be “I tweezed.”

    1. LOL!!! I love it. I could identify, how about “I moisturized.”

  5. Hmm… Just sit and think? The idea of not multiple-tasking really grates against every fiber in my inner being. That being said, you made a great case for it. 🙂 I just wrote a post about a little game I play when I have that I-don’t-know-what-to-write problem. It usually gets the creative juices flowing again.

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