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Why cleaning the house beats writing something new

What kind of person is eager to clean the house, do the laundry or deflea the cat? Well, writers for starters. There’s something about sitting down in front of a blank screen that makes almost any other task seem attractive. I’d barely written that opening when I found myself getting up to close all the blinds and curtains. Like they couldn’t wait for 30 minutes or so? Yet when it comes to putting butt in chair & fingers on keyboard, the urge to do something else becomes alarmingly strong. Suddenly you crave water, chocolate or the need to line up all your pens by size and color order.

If you stay at the keyboard, you’ll feel the need to check your emails, Twitter, Facebook – even if you were on there seconds ago. You never know what vital update was posted in those seconds. There might be a LOL Cat you have to share with your friends. ‘Scuse me while I go look…No! I’m staying right here till this blog post is done. Just one teensy email? Nope. Not even a bathroom break.

And in that last couple of sentences is the key. If you want to write, you mustn’t give in to the urge to be somewhere, anywhere else. I promised to blog about fear of writing, and this is a major symptom. We feel the urge to get away from the empty screen because we’re terrified we won’t find the words to fill it. Or if we do they’ll be so bad our careers will be over.

In the middle of this fear one thing gets forgotten. Nobody has to read what you write until you’re ready. You can write anything, and it doesn’t  matter. Until you choose to let someone else read what you’ve written, they’re all yours to arrange, rearrange, erase or develop as you wish. One of Nora Roberts’s most useful sayings is, “You can fix a bad page, but you can’t fix a blank page.” You can’t edit what you haven’t written.

Seeing a published book on the shelves or in your e-reader, it’s easy to forget that the book wasn’t born that way. It was written word by word, edited and polished many, many times. When it seemed perfect, an editor starts in, until the final draft looks very little like the writer’s first efforts.

Books are like houses, gradually built from the foundations up then the finishing touches are added. Unless we persevere through all the stages, the house – your book – will never be complete.

Now can I check my emails?



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