Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Butt First, Not But First by Betsy Ashton

Our lives are fashioned by our choices. First we make our choices. Then our choices make us -- Anne Frank

How true this is for writers. Or wanna-be writers. Or best selling authors. We choose to become a writer. It doesn't happen over night because we have to work on our craft. We write, delete, rewrite, repeat.

The first choice a writer must make is to think of herself as just that: A WRITER. If you can't tell yourself that you are a writer, you aren't one. You're a pretender. Sure, you've always wanted to write a book. We hear that all the time. Add, "I have the greatest story. I want you to tell it." It's your story. Tell it.

Once we've decided we are A WRITER, we have to begin. It's as simple and as complicated as putting your butt in the chair and your paws on the keyboard. If you are A WRITER, you must carve time out of your busy life to write. It can be as little as a page or two a day, or twenty minutes, or whatever small increment of measurement that works for you. Start small. Build on yesterday's story with today's. At the end of the year, you'll have a draft of a complete story, be it novel, memoir, whatever.

You must decide what is important. If it's writing, that butt in the chair is the most important thing you do. Do it every day. Forget how well you are writing. Just write, darn it.

What? You haven't cleaned the kitchen? The bathroom floor needs to be mopped? You have to reread Moby Dick before lunch? None of this is important if you are a writer. It really isn't. Stop but firsting. No, you don't have to clean the kitchen right now. It can wait until after you write your pages. Your bathroom floor can wait until you take a break, unless the toilet is overflowing or someone barfed on the rug.

Do you feel the power of saying you're A WRITER? You don't? Why not? Oh, you equate being A WRITER with being a published writer. I get it. You see the end of the road before you take the first step. As Anne Frank said, you make the first choice. That's to write. The second choice makes us. We may never be published, but that doesn't mean we can't accomplish something with our words. Write for yourself. Write for your family.

My advice: make writing your priority with your butt in the chair. No excuses. You can do it. BTW, I hated Moby Dick. I'd never give up a minute of writing time to reread it.


Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max, Unintended Consequences, and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, which is now available for pre-launch e-book orders at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


Margo Hoornstra said...

Excellent advice. There's also, Butt In The Chair Honey. Whatever works. Love your covers, BTW. Very nice. (And the Moby Dick comment ;-)

Jannine Gallant said...

I wasn't a fan of most of the classics--and I was an English major! We need some new classics...but I digress. Excellent advice. It's fun to talk about being a writer. Lots do. You only get the title, though, if you actually do it!

Betsy Ashton said...

Margo, I was a comparative lit major in grad school. Moby Dick was the only book I didn't finish. I took the test after reading Cliff Notes. For, the book was downhill after "Call me Ismael."

Jannine, true. You get the title when you write. You don't have to publish, but you have to do the work to be a writer.

Alicia Dean said...

Fabulous post! Something I needed to hear right now, too, because I have been a bit lackadaisical about my writing lately. Well said, Betsy! I never read Moby Dick, but it doesn't seem like my cup of tea. ;) The quote by Anne Frank is wonderful!!!

Mike Frosolono said...

Great post! My next blog post will discuss my writing life, following your example.

Betsy Ashton said...

Glad I can be of help, Mike. I look forward to your post. Alicia, I went on vacation for 12 days. Just now getting back to my normal writing schedule.

Diane Burton said...

OMG, I thought I was the only one who got through lit classes with Cliff Notes. I was bored out of my skull by most of the classics. I hate to admit that my degree is in English.

You are so right, Betsy. So many wannabe writers who always have excuses why they couldn't write.

Leah St. James said...

Anne Frank's words are inspiring in so many ways. So are yours. :-) Thanks for the kick in the butt!

J.C. Kenney said...

Well stated, Betsy. We need to take ourselves efforts as writers seriously, or nobody else will.

Katie O'Connor said...

Love this article. It is so very true. It is easy to let ourselves become distracted for the task/joy of writing.

I must remember to employ the BICHOK technique of writing. Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard.

No more saying, "I'll do it later."

Thanks for the reminder.