By Ellie Maas Davis
“To be a writer is to sit down at one’s desk in the chill portion of every day, and to write; not waiting for the little jet of the blue flame of genius to start from the breastbone—just plain going at it, in pain and delight. To be a writer is to throw away a great deal, not to be satisfied, to type again, and then again, and once more, and over and over…”
Becoming a writer is about routine and commitment, commitment and routine. No matter what the genre, a writer must have discipline, so don’t let a single day go by without writing. It’s the same as being an athlete, it takes daily practice—it’s work—if you want to be good.
After I had my daughter it felt like I had no time for anything. What with a newborn and a growing business, it was a losing battle to carve out a single hour. It’s what I thought I needed, an hour or two at the very least. I genuinely thought if I couldn’t spare an afternoon being lost in the shuffle of wordplay then it was hopeless. Six months passed without me writing a word when poet Carol Ann Davis offered sage advice: find fifteen minutes to write. Over the next five years it’s that fifteen minutes that’s changed my writing life. So while my bread and butter is editing and ghostwriting, each day I dedicate fifteen minutes to my own writing.
It’s been noted that James Joyce, after a “successful” morning of writing was glad to have three sentences. And let’s face it there are times when it takes seven hours to write three sentences. It makes me wonder how long it took Ernest Hemingway to write his six-word short story:
For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.
To be fair, the muse controls so much of what writers accomplish with the time we’re afforded. But I know one thing for certain: even when she’s most fickle, my muse is happiest with daily offerings, even if it’s only fifteen minutes, at the very least, she knows I’m serious.
If you’re a writer who’s not written today, sit down for the next fifteen minutes and get to work.
Ellie Maas Davis
One last tip:
For parents who want to write, they can follow Southern novelist Patti Callahan Henry’s lead. There were years she woke at 4:30 a.m. and wrote until one of her three children stirred. Her children have grown as has her writing career, and she’s proof that discipline is a necessary component—and that even busy mums can become NYT Bestselling authors.
Original version of this article published at Pressque.com.
Educated at Southern Methodist University, the University of Kansas, and the University of Witswatersrand in Johannesburg, Ellie Maas Davis has written extensively on the environment and issues of human rights. She is the owner of Pressque, a publishing consultation firm located in downtown Charleston that offers editing, ghostwriting, and marketing services to authors and publishers.
She is a founding board member of the Lowcountry Initiative for the Literary Arts, a former curator and host of Charleston’s longest running weekly literary series, Monday Night Blues, and serves as a mentor to senior writing students at Charleston County School of the Arts. Published in a number of anthologies and journals, she is the author of The Humours of Folly, See Charleston in a Day, 100, over a dozen ghostwritten works of fiction and nonfiction, and often reviews books for The Post and Courier. When she’s not living somewhere else, she makes her home on Daniel Island with her family.
*Photo Courtesy of http://yeahwriters.tumblr.com/.