You can write, or you can do nothing

All kinds of writers have had all kinds of mantras over the years, most of them geared toward getting s**t done. We writers tend to be far better at procrastinating than actually writing. Dorothy Parker said that “Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat.” Anne Lamott: “How to write: butt in chair.” (Those of you who subscribe to the standing desk hopefully get the gist.)

My personal favorite comes from Neil Gaiman, who is similarly laconic but also pushes back against our particularly modern, digital distractions.

Set aside some time specifically for writing. An hour will do. Or two hours, or fifteen minutes. Then, once you begin,

“You can write, or you can do nothing. But you can’t do anything other than write.”

This means you can sit at your desk and stare out the window. You can write nonsense words in your notebook or laptop. You can daydream.

But no internet. No phone. (No twitter.) No distractions.

Neil Gaiman says that this works, partly, because eventually you’ll get so bored that you might as well write.

But at the same time–and I think this is the secretly genius part of this–you’re enforcing time of inaction and reflection. One of the key mental states, I think, needed to create thoughtful, imaginative prose, poetry, drama.

Pretty brilliant, if you ask me.

I use that quote as my desktop background.

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