By "think like a writer" I don't mean someone like Joyce Carol Oates, who clearly must write 3-5,000 words a day, or the cool folk who get published at McSweeney's, or the writers on the sidebar. I don't know what their thoughts are. In interviews they tell us a little about what their processes are but not necessarily how they conceive of themselves as writers.
Instead, it's more like this:
- I need or want to work on this project every single day and will neglect other things (hello, student writing! hi there, department reports!) to give it room in my head. In other words, even if I'm staring at a screen or leafing through a book or seemingly not doing much, it's still writing, and it doesn't mean that I should stop and do something that someone else wants me to do.
- I have gotten back on the wagon with 750words.com, Scrivener, and all the rest and am now on another streak after travel knocked me off the one I had going before.
- I have trained myself to think about the project first thing every morning and try to get some words down right away. If it's in your head in the morning, it stays in there for the rest of the day, even if you're folding laundry, and you can often get good ideas that way.
- Same holds true for not wanting to start: if I force myself to start taking notes or revising and editing what I wrote previously, new ideas start emerging and I can't wait to get to the real writing. That's the consequence of writing every day for a long period, I think.
- When I see a writer on Colbert or Stewart, I am no longer filled just with mild envy--"she's published another book"--but with an immediate rejoinder--"and so will you, if you get your act together and finish this one, which is this close to being done."
- When I read a bad book not related to work and think, as I did a few weeks ago, "I could have knocked this one out in a weekend" (and trust me, so could any blogger), I think "well, why don't you try, when you're done with this one?" This is, I recall, how James Fenimore Cooper wound up writing the Leatherstocking tales after someone raved about Jane Austen, so maybe there's hope.
- It seems there's an in-the-book zone, when everything I hear seems part of some larger connectedness that can tell me something about the book. Yes, this is how Area 51 and JFK conspiracy theorists get started, but it's pretty benign if it's about your own writing, isn't it?
- Other issues that would usually occupy some brain space (MOOCs, jobs, undermining humanities, gender issues, and all the rest) are getting shunted aside in a major way right now because I just want to write.
And I just want to be done, even if Stephen Colbert's bookers aren't going to call me any time soon.