Butt In Chair

Ask a dozen writers for the first and most important rule of writing, and ten of them will likely quote, sometimes grudgingly, that old workhorse aphorism: Butt in Chair. I never cared for this rule; it made writing seem like drudgery. Until, that is, I remembered writing my first novel. I was in my twenties, and I had already written plenty of short stories, poems, plays, and screenplays. But I’d never attempted The Novel. So I made myself a schedule: Monday through Saturday, 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM. Non-negotiable. If I have no other talent, it is a mule-like stick-to-itiveness, and so, lo and behold, after six months of adhering to this schedule I had a 350-page draft of something resembling a novel.

I found it strangely miraculous, that all that was required to finish a draft of a novel was to work on it every day. In fact, there was a woman with whom I worked who had expressed an interest in writing romance novels. I revealed to her my secret as if I’d found the fountain of youth. “All you need to do is write every day!” I exclaimed. “That’s it!”

Of course, there was a bit more to it than that, but the point was that the size of the novel need not intimidate. And while I thought I had learned a great lesson about novel writing, I had in fact learned a great lesson about life itself. Namely, whatever we put our attention on increases.

What is Butt in Chair really saying but that? If you put your attention on the novel every day it will increase. In fact, the only way for that novel to grow to completion is to put your attention on it again and again and again. So it is with everything. Everything from our marriages to our gardens to writing. But don't stop there. Put your attention on, say, the sour state of the economy, and it will increase, if only in your imagination. Put your attention on rejection letters and you may find they increase as well.

It is as if the universe is saying to us, even with all these supposed “bad” things we make: Look. You can make anything with your attention. Even crap. Isn’t that great news?

Yes it is. So put your butt in the chair of your life. Everything you want is waiting to be written.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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