My Secret for writing in the morning

SUMMARY: Ed Wilson talks about how he begins writing in the morning

One of the things that used to be a problem for me was getting started writing in the morning. I would wake up early, maybe have a cup or two of coffee or tea, and dutifully sit at my desk. I would then check email, check my stocks, read through news group postings, and generally waste the morning.  After lunch I would do the same thing, and eventually, sometime near supper, I would get to work and begin writing. I might sit at my desk and work furiously until one or two in the morning, collapse, and then do the same thing the next day – always promising myself that I would be better the next day, and the next day would be a similar battle.

Two things changed that. The first was that I began traveling – a lot. I traveled the world for five years. During that time, I was in a different city every single week. During this time, I wrote three books, completely on trains, planes and automobiles. What I found was that I was amazingly productive. For one thing, there is no more boring place on earth than an air plane – especially transatlantic flights at night. There is not even anything to see outside of the windows. During the nine hour flight, I could get two, or even three chapters written. I put on my headphones, listened to classical music, and typed. No interruptions, no distractions. Because I had a detailed outline, and previously created chapter templates, all I needed to do was write – and write I did.

The second benefit was that because each work session was effectively timed – the plane lands at 0830, or the train arrives at 1120, there is no chance to “finish up this sentence, paragraph, or chapter.” Therefore the next time I had a chance to write, I always had a sentence, paragraph or chapter in progress – and within seconds, I was busy writing.

Here are the two secrets that I discovered during this process:

1. Eliminate all distractions. Isolate ones self from email, the web, facebook, and other people. If it takes hanging a sign on the door that says leave me alone I am writing, then let it be so.

2. Quit writing at the end of the day with work in progress. Leave a few sentences to finish a chapter, end on a sentence that is partially written. In this way, one comes back to the desk and immediately begins writing. This provides just enough work to prime the pump, and to let the creative juices flow.

Hey, it works for me. next time you are stuck, give it a try.

How to be an Effective Writer

SUMMARY: Ed Wilson talks about the number one tip to be an effective writer

I am not sure who said that writing was 90% perspiration ad 10% inspiration, but that seems to be correct. The inspiration part is “I would like to write a book about …” The perspiration part is all the writing, editing, re-writing, additional editing, submission, page proofs reviews, and subsequent publicity efforts. In short, the easiest thing in the world is to get an idea for a book. The hardest thing in the world is to actually write, and to get published.

Over the years I have mentored literally dozens of aspiring writers. Only one has actually had his book published. It may be that I am a terrible mentor, but I also think that there is a huge misunderstanding as to what it takes to actually get a book written, edited, and published.

One of the first things I tell an aspiring writer is this: “Are you willing to work every night after work, and all day on the weekend for six to nine months, with no hope of obtaining any return on your investment in time?” If you were doing consulting during that time, instead of writing a book, you could easily earn a significant amount of money. Writing a book is not a get rich quick scheme. At best it is an earn a little bit of money over a long period of time scheme. This fact by itself is often enough to dissuade the faint of heart.

So what is the number one tip to be an effective writer? The secret lies in the order of the work. Keep each step separate for maximum efficiency. So, while writing, just write. Don’t edit. This trick was, perhaps more important in the old days when I wrote on an old fashioned type writer. But it is still important today – maybe more so. When I am writing, I write. I do not check grammar, I do not check spelling, I do not look up facts. I do research all at once. I do a grammar pass all at once. I check spelling during a different phase of the writing.

In the old days, when I had a 45 pound of Webster’s New World dictionary, it might take me two or even three minutes to look up the spelling of a word. If I later, during the edit phase of the writing project, decide to use a different word, well, that two or three minutes was lost. But the impact is even more.

In computers we have a term, context switching, that refers to the performance hit to a computer when it changes from one operation to another operation. The computer unloads a portion of memory, and then reloads a different set of memory. Humans also take context switching hits. This occurs when switching from writing mode to edit mode. All of the efficiency gained through “getting into the groove” is lost when I change to line editing.

So, my secret for effective writing? When writing – write. When editing – edit. But do not combine or confuse the two tasks. Tomorrow I will give you my secret for staying on track.