Hey readers,

Okay, time to work in some writing advice again.  I know it's been a while since I've done this, and that's mainly because I feel like a huge jackass giving advice about something that routinely kicks my ass, but seeing as I'm a writer and this is my website, we're gonna give this thing a shot. 

Cool.  So, I've been writing for a living for about three years or so now, and I still haven't been able to get much of a routine together.  I know, I know, this is kinda embarrassing, and it's something I've been working on and bumming myself out about ever since I decided I wanted to be a writer. 

Now, I think there are a lot of reasons I've had trouble getting a routine nailed down.  Sometimes I tell myself it's because I'm a creative free spirit that can't be contained by a schedule, and though it sounds kinda pretty and all, it's complete bull shit.  Hemingway had a schedule.  Roald Dahl had a schedule.  And there's no way I'm more of a creative, free spirit than the dude who came up with James and the Giant Peach. 

So, what's the answer then? 

There's a possibility it's because I'm lazy, and that might be true, but I think it's something a bit deeper than that. 

My theory:  I still work like I'm in college. 

What does that mean?  When I was assigned a paper in college, I wouldn't start it early and chunk off a page a day like a responsible person.  No, I would wait until the last day, and then I would power out the entire works...usually sometime between midnight and when the coffee shops opened up again at 5 in the morning. 

Working like that was a rush, and I usually did some pretty good papers, but it built up some bad habits that I took with me when I started writing fiction. 

Instead of working a steady, sustainable pace on my books, I would usually just get all hopped up on Peets and write 20 pages in a night.  Then I would sit back and wait for my hands to stop shaking and marvel at what an awesome writer I was. 

Except I wasn't an awesome writer the next day.  Or the day after that.  Because I was too wrecked from spending all night freebasing coffee and being hunched over my laptop like a troll. 

Killing myself one night might equal twenty pages, but I was good for approximately zero pages for the next week.  So, that put my weekly page total at 20 pages. 

But, if I would have just taken a couple hours in the morning and busted out a more manageable six pages, that would give me 42 pages at the end of the week. 

So, I would have been twice as productive and with a lot less caffeine abuse besides. 

Jerry Seinfeld understood this and here's a super cool article about how he keeps himself writing and motivated every day. 

Did you read the article?  Seriously, click the link.  The rest of my blog will make a lot more sense if you do. 

For the past few weeks, I've been marking my calendar for every day I write and so far there hasn't been a break in the red X's.  My page total is climbing pretty steadily and I haven't been up at 3 AM once.  Okay, maybe once, but that was only because I had a lot of quality programming backlogged on the TIVO.

So do like Jerry Seinfeld.  Get a calendar.  Mark down some X's for days when you write and watch the pages grow.    


Here's a clip from Troll 2.  Because I love you, that's why. 
1/22/2010 02:54:56 am

Excellent advice. Do you have a daily page limit? or do you still mark the red X if you've only written a paragraph?

1/25/2010 02:08:04 am

I want to see more stuff like this from Ben Esch. Awesome post! I need to do this!

1/25/2010 10:08:08 am

Monica: Why thank you! And that's a hell of a question. So much so, that the next blog is going to be all about that.

Tracy: Yeah! Thanks dude. Send in a picture of a month full of red x's and I'll buy you a fancy coffee.

jay juhl
2/15/2010 02:07:35 pm

good show ben. i like this idea. you are a grizzly bear of a man too! luh yahls

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