Just Do It - Guest post by journalist Rin Simpson

People simply don’t understand how much work goes into being a writer, do they? They fail to comprehend the many and varied activities that fill up our diaries. If only they knew what our schedules looked like, right?

First there’s the internet work: emails, Twitter, Facebook. After all, a writer needs to engage with social networking. Next: GoodReads, writers’ forums, endless blog subscriptions on Google Reader. And of course we’ve got our own blogs to update.

We have to go on courses and read writing guides so we can learn how to write better. And attend conferences so we can find out how other people write. And writing groups, so we can get feedback on writing we’ve done and ideas for writing we’d like to do.

But hang on a second. Have you noticed a common theme? While there’s a lot of talk about writing in this list of activities, lots of learning about writing and discussing writing and even writing about writing… are you actually doing any writing?

Are you sitting down and putting words together to make sentences, weaving those sentences into paragraphs, stitching paragraphs into chapters and chapters into the novel you’ve been meaning to write for the last decade?

Whether it’s due to fear, laziness, insecurity or a combination thereof, most creative writers are much better at procrastination than practise. I include myself. It’s fear that drives my inactivity – fear I’m no good, that the last decent piece I wrote was a fluke, that if I do sit down and start writing, I’ll produce nothing but drivel and it will feel horrible.

And so I have often avoided writing. I have buried myself in writerly things, waiting for “inspiration to strike” i.e. for the fear to dissipate. Until a few months ago. That’s when I realised I needed discipline, something to make me sit down and write, regardless of the fear.

I knew I wasn’t the only one. I had spoken to plenty of other writers who felt the same. An idea was forming. How about if we disciplined ourselves collectively, gathering together to write for one evening every week?

And so The Steady Table writers’ group was born. A place where there would be no feedback or critiquing, no writing exercises or tuition, simply a dedicated time and space where writers could get down to the business of writing, in the comforting presence of others doing exactly the same thing.

If you’re based in or near Bristol, we’d love for you to join us – we’re very nice, honest, and there’s no cost (although you may want to bring money for cake). All you need is a laptop or a notebook and pen, and a project you’d like to work on.

But I’m not here to drum up members. I want to encourage you to find the discipline you need to write. If you know there’s more in you than you’re producing at the moment, get together with a writerly friend and commit to meeting each week, solely in order to write. Don’t think about it, don’t talk about it, just do it!

• Rin Simpson is a freelance journalist, teacher and creative writer. Her short story In Her Shoes was published in Honno’s anthology Cut On The Bias, and she is currently working on a collection of her own. You can follow her on Twitter @RinSimpson or on GoodReads.
• The Steady Table meet weekly between 6pm and 9pm in the café area at Bristol Folk House (http://www.bristolfolkhouse.co.uk/). You can follow the group on Twitter @TheSteadyTable or email steadytable@yahoo.co.uk for more information.


Lari Don said...

I entirely recognise your list of things that are almost but not quite writing! (I would add to it: writing lists about writing. Some days I have a higher wordcount in to do lists than I do in chapters!) Another not quite writing activity which is a challenge for published children's writers is the school visits you have to do to promote your books, and probaly want to do to keep in touch with your target audience. It's about being a writer, but it isn't writing. Thanks for this post. As soon as I've met 60 kids today, tweeted, posted my own blog, reviewed a book on goodreads and fed my kids (real life, is there room for that too?) I'll get straight back to the novel...

Kaka said...

I enjoy wtite down something that I am thinking. But I not a writer, it will take one so much time and energy to be a writer. Hollister is one of my favourite writers.

Rin said...

@Lari Lol, real life? What's that?! Best of luck making space for writing today.

@ Kaka You're so right, writing isn't just swanning about being inspired, it really is hard work!

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Thank you, Rin, for reminding us all of something I, for one, often forget: it's all about the writing. As Lari says, sometimes it's all about marketing - or learning, or reading about how to improve your writing - and whilst this is important, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that none of it would exist without the writing itself! Thanks for starting the Steady Table: I'm already benefitting from it!

JO said...

This is such a good idea - wish I were closer and could join you. Good luck to you all.

Caroline Green said...

That's such a good idea, Rin. I was nodding my head to all the 'activities' that you mentioned happening before the actual WRITING too!

Helen Black said...

Rin, I have such a long list of displacement activity.

Thgis was one of the reasons I didn't do any social media stuff. I thought it would be just another time waster.

Now I've bowed to pressure and joined FB, but I've had to impose time limits. Otherwise hours and days can float by with me 'looking up' people I haven't seen in an age!
HB x

Sheila Cornelius said...

What a good idea. Your meeting place sounds a bit like the one that used to occur every Monday evening in the public area at the back of the Royal Festival Hall in London. Maybe it still does - I never got around to going, so I don't know. But knowing about these things is another not-quite-writing activity , isn't it?

Rin said...

Hi everyone, thanks so much for commenting. Seems like I've touched a common nerve (phew, glad it's not just me then!). I hope the post will have given all of us (because I need the pep talks as much as anyone) a proverbial kick up the backside!

Debs Riccio said...

A very timely post, Rin, as I've just joined a writing group (of - now - 3!) and already I know it's going to be the best way to spend a couple of hours a week - if not actually writing, at least being with other people who 'get it'.

Catharine Withenay said...

I have so many distractions that take me away from writing. It has been on my conscience that I have been very busy doing other things - editing, writers' group, reading, book reviews, tweeting and facebook - that I haven't actually been putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard). Thank you for the timely reminder as to what I am supposed to be doing!

Rin said...

Glad to have helped, and I wish you the very best of luck as you set all distractions aside and just do it!