Life is busy at the moment, so please forgive the short post. One of the earliest pieces of writing advice I ever remember reading arrived courtesy of Stephen King. It was three simple (if slightly crude) words: “ass in chair.” Okay, fine. Thanks for that, Stephen. It can’t be argued with, though. But the next question occurs once you have molded said body part firmly onto the furniture in question: how do you keep it there? How do you stay motivated and focused enough to type out the allotted number of words at whatever rate you’ve set yourself? Well, this week I thought I’d be helpful and share five simple techniques to keep you in your seat, facing your screen, typing mindlessly into a document. An activity we mystifyingly insist on calling “writing”.
1. Remember the scene in Lethal Weapon 2 where Danny Glover is sitting on the toilet and a bomb is wired to explode if he gets up off the seat? Well, there’s a real clue to our dilemma right there. I don’t mean boobytrap your computer chair with an actual bomb, although that would work too, I suppose. Albeit a tad risky. But no, we don’t have to recreate it literally; I mean, we can let ourselves imagine a bomb going off if we stand up before our word quota is met, right? We are writers, after all. With imaginations, presumably. Oh, never mind.
2. So, you’re quietly seething because all your friends took off for a day of sun and surf and you’re sitting alone in this dingy basement again. How do you resist the urge to join them? Simple. With an unhealthy dose of schadenfreude, that’s how. You tell yourself those selfsame frolicking, carefree friends will all lose ten years off their lives thanks to the malignant melanomas that were hatched in their damaged skin cells on this very day. You made the right call, and not only did you write your allotted number of words, but you will be healthier than everyone you know (as long as you ignore the impact on your health of lengthy periods of sedentary existence punctuated only by the rustle of a chip bag or the uncorking of another bottle of Cabernet).
3. You steadily release these literary masterpieces into the black hole of the mighty ‘Zon. You then pointedly ignore the unanimous silence of the world’s cruel indifference. In the movie that runs in your head, the one in which you are the star of course, you watch excitedly as your genius is acknowledged by the literati; you are now lauded among the greats. Okay, if you are able to ignore reality this remarkably, it isn’t any great leap to further pretend there is a man with a hefty cheque waiting for you if you only finish this chapter, edit that section, proofread this paragraph. Add as many zeros to said cheque as you like. Hell, spell it “check”, even, I don’t care. Make the man a famous celebrity. Have him place a Care Bear in a headlock for no apparent reason. Make him laugh at sly librarians. It’s your scenario. Self-delusion (along with near-psychosis) is an essential part of being a writer.
4. Tell yourself if you don’t meet today’s word quota, not only will you make the baby Jesus cry, but you will plunge a battalion of the adorablest kittens into a chronic depression that will eliminate the will to live for 38% of them. You want that on your conscience? (Wait, my spellcheck didn’t flag “adorablest”? Has the world gone mad?)
5. And finally, if the other techniques fail, buy an industrial staple gun, around twenty tubes of Crazy Glue, a roll of the ever-handy duct tape, and use them in ways that will become obvious on even the most cursory of reflections to affix your rebel carcass to your chair.
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David Antrobus is a contributing writer for Indies Unlimited and author of the nonfiction book Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip. For more information, please visit the IU Bio page, and his website: The Migrant Type. He also occasionally adds his stuff to the website BlergPop.
25 thoughts on “Use Your Imagination”
Re #5: Or use plastic wrap. Then you can pretend like you're at one of those high-end salons, writing to amuse yourself while you sweat your way thin. 😀
Oooh, I like!
lmao – you've just made me very, very guilty! The sun is shining for the first time in ages [Australian winter] and I'm going OUT into said sunshine. I'm telling myself it's because I need the vitamin D. And the exercise. And the fresh air. But we both know I'm just skinning the cat 😀
Ironically, almost immediately after submitting this post, I left my chair for an extended period to go enjoy sun and surf! (Hence my tardy replies.)
These are all great! Another trick (if you have it) is to have people lording over you, keeping watch, and holding a really nasty looking whip. Just saying. It helps, trust me. Or else I'd never get my novels completed. lol
BC Brown ~ Paranormal, Mystery, Romance, Fantasy
"Because Weird is Good."
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Especially if the scary whip is in the shapely hands of a tall brunette wearing… oh, wait, PG-13, almost forgot!
#6: You can always play that world famous game; Lava Floor. Only your chair is the safe spot, and ONLY when you've finished your word count for the day does the lava disappear….for now.
My version features hateful demonic things with poison-tipped claws, but yeah, this is also a good one. 🙂
Thanks David, a lovely bit of comic relief
Hilarious David, many thanks for making me laugh so much, but I need to ask you for your help. You write:
"You then pointedly ignore the unanimous silence of the world’s cruel indifference."
Exactly how does one go about that? I'm having a hell of a job ignoring the world ignoring me. Any advice gratefully received!
Chris, I am truly stumped. Now that you ask, I realise I only pretend to ignore it, thus am unworthy of giving any solid advice on the matter. Or maybe that is my advice. As someone said in some movie once: "don't play it for real until it gets real." (Okay, it was Mulholland Drive.)
Entertaining as always.
My motto: Keep going forward.
I don't have a set schedule, word count, or anything. What I do is every day I have to so something that will forward one of my works- be it editing, formatting, cover, writing, or even doing some PR. But every day I must move forward.
Being a farmer gives me the excuse to get some fresh air (as long as the horse stalls aren't too pissy) and once I'm done with my fresh air and manual labor, I sit down, check my email, FB, and then go to work.
Keep going forward, everyone.
Informative and fun, Sir David!
We are doing essentially the same things. The problem for me is when to turn off the computer and let it all go. Doing a little bit each day, something positive that pushes a project forward is the way.
Thank you, Kathy and Lois. My secret agenda was to gather tips from the comments section, and my evil plan appears to be working!
Yes, glue, or silly putty, but if you drink tea, you can avoid carpal tunnel syndrome because you HAVE to get up to boil (or find ice cubes for) more tea, then you HAVE to get up again, and so with this jack-in-the-box syndome you keep re-fueling and de-fueling and enroute pick up more thoughts for the writing and rewriting.
Reread or better, listen to the audio of Stephen King reading his ON WRITING–
then get back to your own, with scapel.
Nice. And I do love tea (English DNA). And Mr King's excellent book (although I haven't heard the audio version).
Have him place a Care Bear in a headlock for no apparent reason. F.T.W.
I swear I insert these random images mainly for your amusement, my friend.
Care Bears in headlocks and adorablest kittens. Thank you for the laughs (and maybe just the teeniest bit of motivation to figuratively staple my ass to the chair and write!). 🙂
If there's an actual specific hell for just writers, I am going to pay dearly for coming up with that word, aren't I?
Still giggling over here. Great stuff, David. 😀
This is where I have to admit to plagiarizing another writer! You were my inspiration on this one, without a doubt.
Missed this over the weekend. Great stuff Antrobus. Well said, the end of #2 is what always gets me!
Thanks, Jim. I'm even later to the comments section, at least. And yes, that apparent throwaway line is probably the real core of all this. How do we combat social isolation and all the health drawbacks of a solitary, sedentary existence?
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