[Greatest Hits] On Writing #4: The Secret to Consistent Productivity and Getting Things Done — Momentum

[To satisfy both goals of 1) moving all my on writing articles over here from LJ and 2) providing more high-quality posts to readers, I’m offering up a second On Writing post this week, one of the classics]

Once you start writing stories or a novel or poems or even essays, if you write every day you develop a head of steam. Not only does writing become a habit, but you don’t feel right if you don’t write. You feel off balance, leaning forward, like you’re standing atop a racing train and suddenly it’s pulled the brakes. You’re going to fly off. Get lost in the sky. Crash.

I’ve been feeling like that. Unfulfilled. Off balance. Uncentered. Because I haven’t bee writing and I haven’t been submitting short stories.

Well, I’ve got good news to report — not only have I started submitting stories again (I was at 0 out-to-market), but I wrote 4,211 words yesterday on a from-scratch rewrite of my WOTF Semifinalist short story “The Eye of God.”

It was one of the first things I wrote after I started writing again, and I was never completely happy with it. I tried rewriting it a few times, just a once-over edit, but it never really worked. I always knew it needed a rewrite from scratch and a different voice. Well, yesterday I was finally gripped with a passion to fix the story — and now there are only two scenes left. Two very difficult scenes. A steep hill for my train. Sure, it’s off to a racing start but that hill is still scary.

But I can do it. I can do it. I can get up that hill.

And you know something — you can too. We’re all little-trains-that-could, here. Maybe you’re writing something that’s beyond your skills and it feels stuffy and stilted, maybe you’re plagued by self-doubts about your editing prowess, maybe you’re a pro looking for a better writing process because you feel unfulfilled, or maybe you’ve always wanted to write and you’ve just never started.

Well, my advice is to just shovel some coal on the fire and get the engine started. Get the wheels turning. They may creak, they may be rusty, but get them turning an the rust will come off and the creaking will get better. Get your train started. It doesn’t have to be an Olympic start. Plenty of time my train just starts limping ahead 100 or 200 words at a time. That’s fine.

Because momentum BUILDS. As long as you keep the coal shovelled and keep water in the boiler, those wheels will turn — and that train will MOVE. And if your train is moving, eventually you will get to the destination.

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