The first thing: When writing stories, long pieces, articles, memoirs, anything, the first thing to realize is: be nice to yourself, or better yet, kick yourself down the stairs, that feel better? You choose.
How silly, of course you will be nice to yourself. Of course you will put your critic in the back closet and ignore all those voices that say your critique group won’t like this. Of course you will ignore voices in your head that say your friends will think this is so stupid, that you shouldn’t be doing this, that there is nothing you can write about.
You have all heard these voices. These voices will be there no matter what you do. See how you can ignore them.
The second thing: if you think of something really goofy, like “She talks to bees”, use it. First drafts are to put anything down that comes to mind. It’s okay. You hear character voices in your head, and they don’t make sense, use them. If your characters take off in new directions and you want to control them, don’t even try. If they will want to play, let them.
The third thing: time yourself. Set an hour a day to write. Write down your start time. You only have to sit with a pencil or paper, or typewriter or computer for that hour only. And write down whatever comes to mind. Use cafes and use other people’s conversations to start. Or have your characters in your stories talk like people in a cafe. Or have them playing cards like people in the cafe. The thing is to use everything. Want to stop? Wait for that hour to come up, then put down your pencil. When you write first drafts, anything goes. Honor the process. This is called creative writing for a reason, be goofy, be terrible, and while you do it, you may think this is the worst thing you ever wrote. So?
The fourth thing: don’t edit as you go, don’t erase anything, and don’t edit what you’ve written. Read over what you have done, admire your ability to sit quietly for an hour, and give yourself praise. You are a genius.
See? Told you so.
Now, you have a manuscript to edit.
Author of Sheriffs’ Calls From the Point Reyes Light
A short story collection, coming out this year from Harper Davis Publishers.