Urgency (Writing Tip #49)

When I got out of college and sorted out the mess of my life, I knew one thing: I'd wasted a lot of time. I knew I wanted to write and I managed to fill a few notebooks during those crazy years, but that was about it. I should have learned more, should have devoted my free time to reading and writing. But--well, we all learn. Eventually.

Shortly after graduating, I was filled with something that I'm still full of now. This wonderful thing called URGENCY. This is probably one of the most important ingredients to have if you're a writer.

The blast of urgency came because of all the time I'd wasted during college. I felt like I had to make amends for that lost opportunity. So I dove into reading and writing. And some sixteen years later, that urgency hasn't gone away.

Nobody is going to ever force you to write. And nobody is definitely going to ever force you to try to get published. The only person who can ultimately force you to do this is you. And if you're ambivalent about the whole thing, you've already waved the white flag.

My personality lends itself to having urgent leanings. There's a part of me that's too stubborn to give up on something, especially a writing project. I'm very, very persistent. And persistence is what you need to keep at it.

But urgency is a different beast than persistence. I believe you should feel stressed out when you're not writing, even if your only deadline is one you made with yourself. Right now, I've got two deadlines and I wake up and go to sleep with them. That helps me make sure I don't slack off and spend a week checking out back issues of Spin magazine online.

I've shared in this blog about setting unrealistic goals. I do that time and time again, and when I don't make those goals, I get irritated and anxious. I don't give up. Maybe I'm just too hard-headed to do that. Any novel I start working on gets under my skin and starts to irritate like a rash. The only way to stop the irritation is finishing the story.

If nobody cares, then you have to care. A little anxiety can be a good thing. Have it force you to sit and write. To sit and study. To sit and read. To just do it and to keep doing it.

These days, I've never felt such an urgency. But it's not just because of those bills. That's a big reason. But the other is this: those stories inside my head. They keep coming and building and I feel like I'm going to blow up if I don't get a few of them out of my system.

If you feel the same way, good for you. Let it fuel you on the days when you're running on empty. Or when you're out of the car playing on the beach.

Labels: ,