I get asked that, sometimes. Over e-mail. In person. By invisible leprechauns.
“What’s the secret to writing?” Or, even better, “What’s your secret?”
My secret is long-kept. It’s a brash, brassy alchemical recipe that, frankly, most writers simply cannot replicate. Its hoary, frothy reagents are direly specific, pointing the way toward forgotten and forbidden penmonkey magicks-with-a-k-and-made-plural. And yet, I’ve been sitting on this too long. This dread sorcery is burning holes in my tighty-whities. It is both chafing and chapping my nether-cheeks. It sometimes squirms as if I’ve underpants full of eels. Electric, bitey eels.
What if I die without giving away my recipe?
What will my legacy be?
How will any other writer ever be successful if I don’t transcribe these hidden truths onto a digital scroll? If I don’t light the path with the flaming torch-skulls of my fallen writer enemies, who will?
Thus I spill the secret to you here, now, today. No matter that I will be hunted for giving away such precious, preening truths. The Council shall come for me, and I shall be waiting with eyes of ink.
You can see it in the digital scroll (created with Ye Olde Fotoshoppe) above, but just in case your eyes are burned out of your head by such heretical Internet enchantments, the secret is:
Write as much as you can.
As fast as you can.
Finish your shit.
Hit your deadlines.
Try very hard not to suck.
(The magic incantation is WAFHT. Which sounds like you’re really drunk and trying to say, “What the fuck?” Or, perhaps, trying to verbalize the acronym for said phrase, WTF.)
It’s quite complex, I know! Nearly impossible to replicate. To reproduce such maddening cosmic geometry you’d have to thread the needle perfectly — calling upon dark powers in such a way that it requires the mystical dexterity necessary to tattoo an ancient sigil on the testicles of a Kodiak bear blasted on sweet Columbian nose-candy. But, I dare not contain the secret of my ways any longer.
May you keep the secret or spread it wantonly, like ringworm.
(Feel free to share that graphic. I’ve opened it on Flickr with a Creative Commons license)