An important thing to remember, I think, is that writing is a calling, a drive, an obsession with most successful writers. It can't be a casual hobby or diversion. I'm taking a class right now with some casual writers, and I have little hope for their success. They talk a lot about their projects in class, which is good--we all should talk with other people about our writing--but very little ends up on paper or a thumb drive. They come to class with woes about not having time to write, concern about format and grammar and the minutia meant for the final stages of writing, or they make excuses about not being able to find the right words. "How do you get so much written every day?" one woman asked me. Neil Gaiman's quote below sums it up. I showed this to her and said, "To put it simply, sit your butt down and do it. Quit worrying about all the details. They will follow. First, you need to get something on paper."
The "thinking about...talking about...worrying about.." quote below sparked some good discussion in my class. I do all these three of these activities, but I also get a lot of writing done. I don't believe it hurts to be thinking, talking, worrying about writing, so long as there's actual writing worked into the formula. Writers do have an enormous cerebral side to their work--antenna up all the time searching for ideas, and a part of their brain going constantly in response to the writing urge--but ultimately they're successful because they sit down and do it. They also keep notepads in their purses and in backpacks and in cars and beside their beds and lots of other places. Those sticky Post-It Notes are the best things ever invented for writers! Ideas can vanish; get them down when they're fresh.
And, finally, Henry Miller's advice: I agree with most of it. I agree that finishing is important. But starting is crucial too, and having lots of balls in the air is good for someone who gets bored easily, as I do. I need to revitalize with new topics. I need excursions of the mind and departures from the norm. Often, I stop in the middle of a writing project and do a different one for a few days. It clears my mind and revs me up to get back to the first project. Maybe this method didn't work for Henry Miller. I'll think about it, since he was a much more successful writer than I am. :-/
That mantra about re-writing: It's true. Good writing is re-written, re-vised, re-worked over and over. I wish my students would accept this.
In a nutshell then, good writing is writing every day, writing with passion, and rewriting vigorously. Writing is good for your head, good for your heart, and sometimes good for your wallet too.
Writing is truly a sport. You have to love it to play well. You have to respect the rules and be willing to work with the team--editors, publishers, audience. The more you practice and refine your moves, the better you play the game.
Okay, I've thought about writing enough for today. It's time to do some of it...but then I have been...am. Yes, this blog counts!