The Hardest Writerly Truth Of Them All

You are the sun at the center of your own narrative universe. You are its god. You are its savior.

I am not its god. I am not its savior.

Let’s rewind a little.

I get emails.

These emails ask me things like, How do I get motivated? or How do I get inspired?

Or, worse, they want to know how I “do it” every day. Not a reference to my sexual prowess (were you to ask the intimate partners of my life, they may speak of a lack of prowess reminiscent of the fumblings of an inept-yet-eager lube-soaked chimpanzee), but rather it’s a reference to my ability to hunker down and just… write.

I do it every day. And people want to know how.

They want hard answers. They want a button to push, a lever to yank. More troubling, they seem to want a menu of options. Discard this one, pick that one, the perfect meal suited to the eater.

I have one answer for you.

It is not a nice, nor easy, answer.

That answer is: “You just do.”

How do you get motivated?

You just do.

How do you get inspired?

You just do.

How do you write every day? How do you finish a book? How do you learn to spin a great narrative, to create memorable characters, to put pen to paper and fingers to keys and explode your heart and your mind with the power of motherfucking stories?




This may seem like an admonishment against writing advice, that all the shit that I sling here is worthless because the reality is, the very act of writing is the answer. Do not misunderstand: writing advice has value, but it only has value to those who are willing to execute and implement. All the writing-talk and story-speak in the world won’t do more than tickle your theoretical story’s imaginary testicles if you’re unwilling to commit the time and effort it takes to grab the words from inside your ribcage and smash them like overripe fruit on the page.

Only when you choose to open that door by embracing action does this stuff matter.

Until then, it’s all just candy-floss and elf-dreams, man. It’s ether. It’s nothing.

Action. Execution. Implementation.

Do. Write. Finish.

I know, you’re saying, “That’s easier said than done.” I know it is! So fucking what? A big-ass boulder tumbles down from the mountaintop and falls on your hand and pins the limb, you either gnaw through your arm like a goddamn coyote or you die under the rock. Door won’t open? Kick it down. Wall blocking your path? Bash it with your skull until it falls or you do.

Life’s getting in the way? I’m sorry, that’s how life works. Life is a series of obstructions — it’s speedbumps all the way down. You’re depressed? Get in line. You’re depressed. So’s that woman over there and she wrote 1000 words today, and yesterday, and the day before. You think I don’t deal with depression? Of course I do. We writers are tailor-made for that. I know, I sound unsympathetic — trust me, it’s the opposite. I’m completely sympathetic. I’ve been there. I’m sometimes there still. It doesn’t change the cold, hard fact that all the power lies with you. In your brain. In your hands. Nobody ever said it was going to be easy. Did you want it to be easy? What fun is easy? Easy is a value of zero. And surely you want more than nothing? Writing makes you pay. In blood and tears and frustration. You do it because you love it. Not because it’s a warm bed at your back but because it’s sharp stones under your feet spurring you forward.

It’s the wolf at your heels. It’s the fire in your heart. Wolves bite. Fire burns.

Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it’s scary. Sometimes it’s hard and makes no sense and sometimes the frustration gets so bad you just want to dunk your head in a bucket of whiskey and hide your tears inside the liquid burn but, but, but —

Fuck it. Shut up! Write. You get your years and you get no more. These are your days. No Muse is going to breathe a hot sigh of inspiration up your hiney-hole. I’m not going to come to your house and crawl inside your skin and bind my bones to yours with the purpose of forcing you to crap out all your big bad story-words. Oh, you have writer’s block? Boo-hoo! Writer’s Block has as much power as you give it — it’s a Weeping Angel, so bind it to the earth with your gaze.

This is creation!

This is the act of forging something out of nothing. It demands sacrifice. It’s you carving off parts of yourself to a future without promises, you spilling power and grief and embracing chaos and uncertainty all in the hopes of trying to make sense of this thing you do in the sheer bloody-minded chance that something you write will finally matter but the trick is, it all matters, because writing is how we connect with ourselves and the world beyond our margins. Writing is how we tether ourselves to god, a god in a narrative world that is, of course, us.

You’re the Muse that inspires you. You’re the god to which you sacrifice. You’re the battering ram made of unholy fire that tears down Writer’s Block. You’re the knife that cuts the arm off, you’re the boulder that must be pulverized, you’re the devil in the details.

You’re the one-armed coyote or you’re the dead sonofabitch under the rock.

I can try to tell you how to write.

But first you have to be willing to write.

You only get the map when you step through the door.

It only gets done by doing it.

Will yourself to create.

Accept no excuses.

Brook no fear.

Shut up.

Fuck it.


142 responses to “The Hardest Writerly Truth Of Them All”

  1. F’n A. I wrote for 15 years, got 451 rejections. Got up every morning at 3 am to write before work.

    I’m not a God. I just wanted it. BAD.

    LIke Steven Pressfield said, “I keep going until I get a yes or a restraining order.”

    You have to want it THAT bad.

  2. Great, raw advice. The sugar coating is that sometimes, when you sit down to write anyway because that’s what you do, it is actually the best activity in the world. Not all the time, but sometimes. That never happened to me in telemarketing.

  3. Thanks so much for this. I got sent the link to it through G+ (where a lot of your posts get passed around, like dirty paperbacks at school…) and found it so inspiring I went off and wrote a post about how inspiring it was. It’s kind of gushy, so I’m not linking it here. I DID link to THIS post THERE, so people may come from my post to read this one and get inspired too. I hope so.

  4. A-friggen-men.

    I all but stopped attending writers’ groups because I can’t stand the level of navel-gazing, woe is me, I’m too busy to write, bull-ish. There’s nothing less interesting than listening to some twit drone on about how they just haven’t found the time to finish their first novel, which they’ve been working on for five years.

    If these people stopped attending these pity parties and instead used that precious time for writing, maybe they’d actually get some ish done.

    Writers just need to shut the frak up and write.

  5. OH MY WIZARD GOD. Just when I thought I couldn’t love you more, you go and make a Doctor Who reference. Damn you, Wendig.

    Oh, and this was excellent–exactly the kick in the pants I needed! Thanks!

  6. Brilliant post, Chuck. I had to learn this the hard way; it’s only now that I’m finally walking the walk after years of wanting and hoping and “if-only”-ing.

    The key for me was letting go of the ‘X-Factor Mentality’ i.e. the idea that if I couldn’t get published and make a career as a writer I’d have officially ‘failed’ at writing, full stop. I came from the kind of family where failing at anything was the worst thing you could do – so even if I came within reach of achieving my goal, I often ran away before putting myself on the block.

    It was only when I asked myself honestly “If I could see into the future and know I’m never going to be a rich and famous writer, would I stop writing from now on?” – and realised the answer was “no way!” – that I worked out what I needed to do was redefine my ideas about what ‘failure’ really was. Now I just write because I just do. My current w-i-p might end up being good enough to publish – in which case I’ll write the next one… and the next one. Or it might get rejected by the entire universe – in which case I’ll write the next one… and the next one…

    Thanks again for the golden nugget, Chuck. Here’s hoping it’ll save others from making the mistake I did. :^)

Speak Your Mind, Word-Nerds

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: