21 December 2011 by Published in: Uncategorized 1 comment

Scott Bury, Canadian literary icon and commentator, has graced us with a guest blog. As part of my continuing series on writers, writing, and the motivations and tactics writers use to write effectively (if alliteratively), Scott throws in his two cents, as I do on his blog this week. So blog swapping. Much like bored, 1960s-era housewives, only without the beehives or the aprons. Speaking from a strictly literary, metaphorical standpoint, mind you. Never mind. You people have sick minds. As well I know.

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Russell and I are swapping guest blog posts this week. We’re both writing about the best, and the worst,
things we do or have done as writers.

I have to admit that I am a terrible procrastinator in a lot of things: going to the dentist, getting a
haircut—and writing. I am continually writing right up to the deadline. Perversely, it seems I have
become dependent on having a deadline.

Distractions play a big part in my procrastination. There are always so many things to do before writing.
First, of course, there’s the research—you have to know what you’re writing about. But so many other
things can call me away from the document: social media, checking email, monitoring the number of
hits on my blog today (91 so far!)

Then, I have to make sure I have everything set up just right. Do I have a full cup of fresh, hot coffee?
Better make a new pot. Is the chair at the right height? Adjust it. Oh, the sun is shining right into my
eyes. Close the blind. Now, it’s too hot. Take off the sweater. Hmm, I could use a snack right now.

See how long it can take to get into the mood?

I often feel despair when I look around at the haphazard stacks of paper, notes, receipts, books, pen
caps and other detritus on my desk. Sometimes, the debris does get in the way by interfering with the
keyboard or blocking notes (or hiding them!)

While it’s essential to have those interview notes for the article about advanced manufacturing
techniques, cleaning the office does not help me to work faster or more efficiently. I admit that I need
to spend some time on long-term organization, but an hour spent on putting every piece of paper in its
proper place is an hour less for writing.

I can proudly say that I learned the most important lesson early: don’t wait for inspiration. That’s like
having winning the lottery as your retirement plan. Productive writers—writers who have written a body
of work—did not sit around waiting for inspiration. They worked at it and got something down on paper.

The best I have done

I have learned, eventually, to focus on the work—even when my coffee is cold, I can’t move my chair
without crumpling paper and I can hear my wife clucking behind me over the state of my office.

How can you focus? First, it’s essential to have a thesis statement and an outline (see my posts
about “getting a GRIP” on my own blog). If you want to get somewhere, you have to know where it
is. I sometimes fool myself that I have an outline in my head, but then I always find myself forgetting
important parts of the story or article and jumping back and forth in the document, scrolling up and
down in the word processor as I write. While having an outline frees you from having to start writing
your story at the beginning, I also find I prefer writing more or less linearly—from beginning to end.

Usually.

I find the method that works best for me is having my outline open on my screen; if I’m quoting from
an interview, I like to have the interview notes on my desk beside the computer, easily accessible for
flipping through the pages. I also have a transcriber’s document stand beside my screen, in case there is
something I need to type directly from paper to screen.

A little deadline pressure is helpful—as long as I’ve done all the necessary research and outlining.

One more thing: it may be a cliché, but I have found that it’s better to write in the morning , whenever
possible. It seems not only do the ideas flow from outline to draft more readily, the final quality is
better. But if I have to write at night, I can and I do.

Don’t wait for inspiration, and don’t wait until all the conditions are just right. They never will be. Know
what you want to write, and just write it.

Inspiration can be wonderful. When it strikes me, I can write like a jet engine. But you can’t sit around
waiting for it. If I did, I’d never write anything.

Or maybe the lesson is to find inspiration in whatever it takes to get the story done.

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Scott Bury is a writer, journalist and editor based in Ottawa, Canada. He has written for a range of publications from Applied Arts to Macworld to the Financial Post. His latest fiction release, The Bones of the Earth, Part 1, is now available on Smashwords, iBooks, Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and the full novel will be out before the end of the year.

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Scott’s blog can be found here. You can also check out my guest blog at his site using that same link. And follow him on Twitter at @ScottTheWriter

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For those who have expressed interest in my cover artist, e-mail me at [email protected] and I’ll hook you up. Cheap, good, and no drama. How often does that happen?

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  1. Johnc928
    Mon 22nd Sep 2014 at 12:32 pm

    I really enjoy the blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Fantastic. gdeebdakdkde

    Reply
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