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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Eight Essentials Every Writer Must Master

1.  Show up!

The other seven essentials will tell you what to do when you show up, but the most important step is to devote time to writing.

Everything comes from simply showing up consistently. You must have the integrity to honor a clearly stated writing commitment.

I’m NOT suggesting you have to write for hours a day, everyday of the week. After all, according to Genesis, even God took a day off. But regularity delivers a host of benefits, so I do suggest at least 3 or 4 days a week to maintain your momentum.

Keep this commitment small and regular. Put in your 15 Magic Minutes every day you say you will. You’ll get far more done in four 15 minutes sessions than you will in one 1 hour session.

If you’re in the Twin Cities metro area, you can get encouragement and support as you acquire this writing habit (and other valuable habits and tools) in my Writing Habit or Around the Writer’s Block classes.

If you’re not in the Twin Cities, don’t despair — the Around the Writer’s Block book devotes three chapters to writing habits and will be available in August from Magers & Quinn, Powell’s and Indie Bound  (to order from other indie bookstores) and, of course, Barnes & Noble and Amazon for paper, Nook or Kindle versions.

2.  Write a shitty first draft.

All first drafts are shitty, in other words, awkward, incomplete approximations of what you think you’re trying to write.

Everyone has the ability to write a shitty first draft; you just have to be willing to let your Inner Crap Writer out to play and make a mess.

The willingness to write badly may seem counter-intuitive, but it is vital. Giving yourself permission to write badly makes it possible to start; expecting near-perfection freezes your creativity.

Drafting (generating new writing) and revising (editing existing writing) are two very different cognitive tasks. Trying to do both at once is a form of multitasking and therefore a waste of time – if you don’t know the hazards of multitasking, read this or this.

To give you time to fully integrate each of the 8 Essentials, I’ll discuss only two per post. Our next post will review Essentials 3 and 4. For now, show up consistently and write badly. If you happen to write well, consider it a bonus.

Please share a few paragraphs of your shitty draft in the comments. I’ll respond to every comment.

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  1. Eight Essentials Every Writer Must Master – Part 2 « The Bane of Your Resistance - May 31, 2012

    […] previously posted, Essential #2 is the willingness to write a shitty first draft. But just because you write a shitty first draft, […]


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