Monday, August 2, 2010

How Serious Are You About Writing? Your Brain Wants to Know.

By Renea Winchester

I used to believe successful writers were masters in the art of trickery. They used secret words and incantations to summons the elusive muse. Legions of Writing Fairies whispered best-selling ideas, as agents lined up around the block begging for the chance to represent them. Then I asked successful authors the question, “What is your secret?”

What I learned was surprisingly simple. All writers struggle. However, instead of telling me their “secret,” they had a few questions of their own. Specifically, “How serious are you about becoming a writer; and what are you willing to sacrifice in order to reach your goal of becoming published?”

“Because,” they said, “if you’re going to write the first thing you must surrender is the thing you have the least of…your time.”

Time is a difficult aspect of the writing struggle. For you see, everyone gets twenty-four hours a day. The challenge begins when you consciously decide what you are going to do with the day you have been given. After all, there are no Writing Fairies who convert ideas into the written word.

Each morning writers are faced with a choice. Are you going to lock the door, unplug from the rest of the world and slip “into the writing zone?” Or are you going to pour another cup of coffee and hemorrhage the morning away playing with the latest techno-gadget available?

I understand. In your heart you want to write. Your soul needs to write; but life-demands…well, they’re demanding. Children get sick. Spouses need attention. Parents desire a visit. All these things have a place of importance in the life of a writer. None can be ignored. However, if you’re not careful writing will tumble to the end of the “importance” line where ideas stagnate until pressing issues are resolved.

Let’s consider the question again, “What are you willing to sacrifice?”

For me, I sacrificed television time. I am completely unplugged. While many have asked, “How do you manage life without television?” I can honestly respond that I haven’t missed it at all.


In an attempt to focus on writing and manage life-issues you vow you can do it all. Laundry is folded. Dinner is in the oven. Emails have been answered. You are ready. The phone is turned off. No electronic distractions. Pencil sharpened. Knuckles cracked. You’ve locked yourself in the writing closet with only time and paper. It is time. Time to write. Time to remember those brilliant, best-selling ideas that appeared this morning while you were in the shower.

Here we go.

Instead, what usually happens when you “make” time to write? Nothing. That’s what happens. Nada. Zip. White-page-nothing!

This “nothing time” separates dedicated writers from wanna-be writers. Real writers push…literally push through this blank page where-did-my-idea-go phase. They write, incoherently at first. It hurts. These first painful words lie crumpled in the wastebasket: grocery lists, squiggles, curse words. Eventually, nonsensical ramblings cleanse the mental palate until the process of hand touching paper jolts the brain into realizing that this time you are serious.

Because let’s be honest. Your brain is tired of hearing about your writing. Your brain is tired of excuses. Your brain has been fooled so many times that it has locked every brilliant idea you ever had in the vault with no intention of releasing one precious nugget until you convince it just how serious you are. Now is the time to get to work, convincing your brain that you…yes you, are a writer.

Here we go, again. Ooh this is hard!

“I can do this,” you whisper. Your brain hears it and responds with, “We’ll see.”

Time stops. Pages curl as words touch the page. Eventually a character appears like a photograph in a worn album. You examine it, writing what you observe. A slight tug pulls your heart as you fall in love with the process. Non-writers don’t understand this stage of the craft. But you understand. You become aware that you are on the cusp of something beautiful, but you must be careful. If you move from this spot the magic will evaporate. Ignore growls of hunger and knocks at the door. You only have this moment. This second leads to another, and another. With each word your brain is convinced that you are serious and eventually the words return.

Real writers prove to their brain their level of commitment.
Real writers make time to sit still and write.

Little Creek Books will release Renea’s book In The Garden With Billy: Lessons About Life, Love, and Tomatoes October 2010. Renea Winchester’s work has been awarded the Appalachian Writers Association Award and has appeared in Appalachian Heritage, Georgia Backroads, Smoky Mountain Living as well as Georgia Public Radio. She blogs at and may be reached at


Anonymous said...

Wonderful essay! So inspiring.

Susan Cushman said...

Just what I needed to hear today. Thank you!

Ad Hudler said...

Looking forward to reading your new book!

Kerry Ann @Vinobaby's Voice said...

So very true. I may coerce my husband into reading this post. You eloquently explain why I usually stare at my blinking cursor for hours only to find inspiration when I am supposed to be cooking dinner.

Renea Winchester said...

Thanks guys for reading and commenting on my post. Now, get of the internet and back to work. Your adoring fans await :)