THE BLOG

How to Write for an Hour

01/07/2014 11:15 am ET | Updated Mar 09, 2014
  • Christine Deakers Writer, committed to nuanced cultural issues, fresh bread, and things written by old Irish men

Always follow the rules, whether it's a prompt, iambic pentameter or waiting 30 minutes after you eat. Then, suddenly, don't follow them at all. Break rules as many times without creating a trend.

Keep readers suspicious. Imagination is found in the form and the story is in the laws we decide to break after making them.

One should be somewhat fluent in the English language (or any language held by a certain number of peoples). Remember the importance of vernacular. Writing is democratic, even for those who, depending on the time of day, and level of hydration, are caught slurring his or her words, unable to recall common idioms, your middle name or the lyrics at a karaoke bar.

Think of the container of your words. Yes, this online forum will do. A piece of paper works. A notebook, yes! Yes! There you go: Use a pen! A pencil! The QWERTY keyboard! Meditations prove to be successful when written on a Blackberry, in a bathtub, at the end of a reality television show (See: Run's House).

One is allowed to be afraid. An hour of writing is a very doable, if anything, one hour is hardly a warm up. It's only one cup of coffee, a fifth of gin -- But no! In a writer's mind, one is scared to begin, following the same logic on why people don't jump out of planes easily or try new foods with strange textures.

Doubt is the unwanted guest that follows the writer everywhere. Doubt is unavoidable, but also a great reassurance that a writer is self aware and attuned to his or her worries.

Doubt crawls up a shoulder. Maybe it even crawls up both shoulders. Doubt is scariest when personified with a number of limbs, akin to the octopus, or in some rare circumstance, Doubt is phantom-limbed when he fell victim to a terrible shark attack.

Learn to acknowledge Doubt at all times; push and write through his presence. Soon Doubt will merely be the one who forgets to refill the Brita filter. He's the worst figment, but never worth any serious attention after a few calming breathes.

At first, disregard coherency; prioritize the action of writing over the thought of writing. In the light of morning, you may make sense of it all. Reflect on your day's work. Then, start over. Rinse. Repeat.

Everyday write in some capacity, even in the smallest capacity. Maybe a story, maybe a poem, maybe you jot down your calories. This is all an exertion of energy. Your writing may shuttle between bewilderment and a synonym of bewilderment. Thought is nothing but a form of commute.

With that said, be wary when writing on or about public transit. Watch your six on certain turfs. Acknowledge that the literature of place has a lot to do with the place itself. (Trains are Tolstoy's domain. Roads: Keroauc's. Time machines: Wells'. I hear these men aren't good with sharing.)

Writing on public transportation becomes dangerous. For one, you might be driving, changing the radio station or conducting air traffic control. Two, the mind is not impermeable. All writing inevitably becomes thoughts about people on a bus, or a story set on a bus, or waiting for the bus, or just a series of thoughts like bus bus bus busbusbsubus.

Learn to focus your attention beyond your current circumstance. One can practice and achieve this. Be mindful enough to remove yourself from your own presence. Listen to people. Know characters as if they already exist, have a history and a favorite color.

Never live your life by "doing it for the story." Write for the exercise of it. Then, go out in the world. Do nothing calculated and nothing ironic. Sincerity is always in vogue. Try not to over-think, rather, over-live. Later, maybe write about over-living after you clean up the mess.

Try not to fall for romantic notions. No one is allowed to write about Paris anymore. Sorry. However, I've heard writing is only reserved for divine intervention for some Victorian woman living in an attic somewhere. (Wrong.) It's also for the whiskey-soaked and corn-fed driver going across country believing he is entitled to a dream for the exceptional. (Dangerous.)

Writing is a chase; its success defined by the resilience of your numbered attempts. It's work: a pursuit over the fauve, the persnickety beast that always seems to get slightly ahead of you. It's difficult to know when you're in arm's length. Perhaps get your eyes checked. I caught the fauve's tail once. I later realized it was a sock underneath the couch.

Finally, when writing for an hour, remember: never use an egg timer, do not, under any circumstance, leave the oven on, and perhaps, disregard the placement of the sun. If you often arrive fashionably late to social engagements, or have a habit of overstaying your welcome, your flexibility will do you well.

Feel confident that the smallness of an hour can stretch. It's good to use hyperbole for dramatic effect. I read somewhere in the Bible how easy it is to exaggerate the amount of work one did in a day. Be patient: creative endeavors, on any scale, may take as long as you need.