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Thursday, January 6, 2011

That Book You'll Write "Someday" (Right!)

Having not nearly the discipline of Anthony Trollope as cited in Karl's post about the website devoted to notables' daily routines, I recently lost myself in said site's attractions.

The ambitious writer side of me was, of course, was drawn to bestselling author John Grisham's description of how he approached his work in the early days: "The alarm clock would go off at 5, and I'd jump in the shower. My office was 5 minutes away. And I had to be at my desk, at my office, with the first cup of coffee, a legal pad and write the first word at 5:30, five days a week." His goal: one page per day, after which he'd pick up his lawyerly life.

Most interesting, I thought, was his comment about this earlier routine compared to the present: "So I was very disciplined about it," he says, then quickly concedes he doesn't have such discipline now: "I don't have to."

It's not clear from what's cited whether he doesn't "have to" because of his success as a writer or because he has more time to devote to writing (or both). Either way, it got me thinking about the compression of time, which Trollope also used (writing with his watch in front of him), and how useful that is for producing forward momentum.

It appears possible to be most productive as a writer when one feels least able find a spare moment to write.

So there really is no excuse not to write that book that's been kicking around in your head for years, which you haven't gotten around to writing because of your day job, or because you're "so busy."



  1. My friend Peter Osnos always tells people who say they plan to write a book "someday," "Start writing tomorrow morning. If you write one page a day, you'll have a book in a year." A slight over-simplification, but fundamentally accurate.

  2. I actually did that for my first book. It was made easier by the fact that it was a book of meditations, so I had X entries to write. I drafted one entry per day in the hour before I left for my editor job at William Morrow. I forbade myself to edit them until I had a pretty large batch. And yes, I ended up with a book. Amazing how that works.