The cliche is true; writing is a muscle.
I’ve done pretty good these last few weeks with writing a blog every day. There were a couple of misses on weekends, usually Sundays, but I’m building steam. I can feel my brain starting to think in prose again, and it is good. Like the satisfying muscle soreness from the first long bike ride after a never ending winter of sitting on my ass.
Last night I read a few chapters of Gabriela Pereira’s writing book, DIY MFA, and she was discussing a concept borrowed from startup culture known as a “minimum viable project.” This concept can be summed up with the slightly more relatable phrase, “just do it.”
Just sit your ass down in a chair, or on the ground, or stand at a standing desk if that’s your thing, and just write the words. Any words. Just write.
My blogs from just a couple of weeks ago are utter crap that I was horrified by, but I pressed the damn Publish button every single day. Once upon a time I easily wrote weird, entertaining posts that my friends and followers loved, looked forward to, bugged me about if I disappeared for more than a few days. I was good, I was building a following, and I just needed to make the leap to start submitting personal essays to journals and magazines.
Then a bunch of really weird shit happened in my personal life, I got locked in a cycle of depression that went untreated, and I stopped writing completely. I stopped reading, too. This went on for years. There were occasional bursts of my writing really bad poetry in a desperate attempt to kick start things, but I just ended up hanging out with the drunk old men who haunt poetry readings. That was a strange scene.
I quit my job as a digital marketing analyst about a year ago. That was a direct result of the bizarre mind fuck I experienced by actually finishing NaNoWriMo 2015. It was the first time in my life that I had ever managed to achieve that type of word count in a single fiction project, and it was a revelation that kind of exploded all over my life.
Okay, quitting that job can also be attributed to the daily sensation that I was trying to claw my way out of a skin suit I wore in service to a company that was straight up lying to its clients. But I found the courage to get out of there after seeing that I can produce that many words. I cried after submitting my draft to confirm nearly 60,000 words on November 28th.
That scattered zero draft from NaNoWriMo 2015 will never see the light of day, but its successors most certainly will. I know that if I just write, work out my process, I will be able to write books that someone out there wants to read.
Going back to DIY MFA, a “minimum viable product” is essentially the most basic form of the thing you want to build that will achieve its most basic goal. I could still be working on designing this blog, tweaking About content (notice I don’t even have an About page right now), building out my highly detailed marketing plan. But I wouldn’t have written a single word yet, and I would not have regained my ability to just write a blog every day that I feel good about.
Your first draft is supposed to be ugly and gross and not make much sense. That’s what it’s for. No one gets to see it. Do not show anyone your first draft. Write it, then edit it, fix everything that you can catch on your own. Then you’ve got a second draft that’s probably ready to get some outside feedback.
Blog, and publish that blog, every day. Write what you want to write, every day. Whether it’s five hundred words or five thousand words, you need to write something. Scraps of paper, dictating into your phone’s voice recorder, find a way and make some time.
Even if you’re just writing yourself a pep talk on how much you believe writing every day will make you a better writer.