how to write (a book). a wee rant.

Hand I get a lot of emails from people asking how to write (a book). So I thought perhaps an essay outlining my thoughts on the topic might be helpful—to me, in order to clarify the thoughts I have about writing—and, perhaps, to others. (You don’t write? Substitute paint, embroider, sing…for the word “write.”)

  1. Don’t set out to write a book. Form is not content. Let’s say that again: FORM IS NOT CONTENT. A book is nothing more than a commodification of ideas. Start with the ideas, the emotions, the thing you most long to say. If you don’t know, the writing itself will help surface what it is you want to say, but sitting still and waiting for a book to spring fully formed from your forehead will never happen. Will. Never. Happen. Listening to what other people have to say also won't help. Good god, no wonder we all have writer’s block. We’re not even writing. Plumbers don’t have plumber’s block, do they? NO, THEY GET ON THE FLOOR AND CLEAR OUT THE WINDEX AND EVIDENCE OF MOUSE POOP UNDER THE SINK AND GET TO PLUMBING; which leads me to point number 2.
  2. Sit the hell down and write. Writer Ron Carlson has written so eloquently about this in his book, “Ron Carlson Writes a Story.” He reminds us to sit back down and stay in the room. When everything else in the world seems more attractive than actually sitting down and putting pen to paper (how sweetly archaic I am, thinking ANYONE actually writes on a college-ruled legal pad with a fountain pen anymore besides me), sit back down and stay in the room. SURE, I know the laundry just got fascinating, but sit the hell down and write.
  3. Write to write. Don’t say you’re a writer if you’re not writing. You’re not a writer, and who cares anyway, if you’re not writing. Even if you’re writing, don’t call yourself a writer. Say, instead, “I write.” It's the verb that's important, not the noun. “I haven’t been able to write,” people say to me all the time. “No, actually,” I respond, “You have been able to write, but you have chosen not to.” They usually walk away unhappy. We are always – ALWAYS – in choice. If you have a napkin and a pencil nub or a piece of dirt on a stick, you can write. Don’t let the “writer” take precedence over the “writing.” Let go of outcome. Forget blog statistics and the endless “freebies” that have sprouted online. Why does your blog need to lead anywhere? What’s all this striving about? Don’t search endlessly for a book deal before you’ve even written anything. Go back to #2: sit the hell down and write. Sit alone with yourself and a piece of paper without thinking about an audience, your database, the best way to market using social media.
  4. Long to say something. “How can I build a successful blog?” people ask me. I do not have a clue. I do everything wrong—my posts are too infrequent and far too long for a nation shocked by long uninterrupted blocks of text. What is your intention? To build a successful blog, or to actually say what is inside of your heart and mind and every single bloody cell of your being, and that you must somehow export it out into the world before you die? Much writing I read these days is to sell something by a formula. Is that your highest purpose? Is that the voice that is dying to be let free into the world? If it is, great, that's fantastic! If not, stop it. Stop it. Sit with yourself and your unique place in the world and write it all down. Write it all down. Speak your voice. So many people say they need to find their voice. You have a voice, now use it, damn it. In the writing comes the thread. In the writing comes your unique voice, your way, your sense-making of the world around you. Can’t say what you want because people won’t understand or like it? Who are you living for? Yourself or people with wallets? Yourself or applause? Yourself or validation?
  5. Name the direction of your intention. See #4, above. Why are you doing this? Why do you want to write? To be on a bestseller list or to say something that only you can say in the way that you can say it? To leave behind a record of having been here? To scratch out some small surface of your story for others to learn from? To tell your Truth as only you can see it? To get optioned for a movie? To enroll people on your precious database, like so many prizes in a Cracker Jack box? Why? Name the direction of your intention. You can’t play two intentions at a single time on stage—which are you playing? Are you warning Hamlet or getting the audience to love you? Warn Hamlet.
  6. Ignore everybody. “People won’t like what I’ve written. They won’t buy it. It’ll never get published.” WHO CARES? Who cares.  Annie Dillard once said you have to be an orphan to write. Be an orphan. Write it. If you fear leaving it behind should you be hit by a large flock of seagulls and killed on your way to lunch, write it and fling it into the air by hitting delete. The only thing important about that difficult scene you need to write, but which would embarrass you if others read it, is that you wrote it. Write it all down, the worst imaginable things you think (trust me, you are not alone in enjoying the smell of your own farts). Just write it. Delete it if you must; the important part is to write it. Get it out of your system. Stop trying to manifest an audience.
  7. The writing is everything. Not the publishing. Not the work-shopping. Not the agent-shopping. Not the Amazon sales rank. Not the deciding who will play you in the movie (Meryl Streep, of course, for 90% of us, what with the accents and all). No, just the writing. The unsexy part. The part where blood drips from your forehead and you imagine yourself far more precious and special than you are.
  8. Shut up about ideal conditions. I am tired of hearing myself whine about needing a writing shed—and, frankly, I’m tired of hearing you whine about it too. I have two words for you: Concentration Camp. Beautiful, haunting, exquisite music, art, and writing, were borne of Auschwitz. Shut up about needing different colored walls. These are all deflections that serve only to keep you from doing the work. Your studio is too messy? Clean it the hell out and get to work. You don’t have a studio? Write at the dining room table like I do. Don’t have a dining room? Sit on the toilet and write. Don’t have a toilet? Got floor? Don’t have time? Have a full time job? So do I. So did William Gaddis, author of one of the most amazing American novels ever written. So did poet Wallace Stevens. Get over it. Talking about not having enough time takes up more time than it would take to actually write.
  9. Don’t believe the hype. Write your heart out. Put it out into the world (or not) and then write more. Don’t stop to head up your own Parade. Just write. Write like you are dying. You are.
  10. Read more. Read like your hair is on fire.
  11. Don’t take one more class. Everything you are doing to avoid actually writing is a deflection, including taking more classes. You know enough. Do you know the alphabet? Do you have a brain and a heart? You can write with JUST THAT KNOWLEDGE AND EQUIPMENT (see below).
  12. Make do with the pen you have. If only I had one of those cool astronaut pens that write upside down and in the rain, then I could write the Great American Novel. If I had one of those weatherproof notebooks… See #8. Write with a pencil nub. Just write. You don’t have the latest studio equipment. Too bad. Pretend you’re MacGyver and have to save the world with a safety pin and a piece of string. Imagine you are on a plane that is going down into the ocean and you need to scrawl last your words on a vomit bag with an eyeliner because that’s all you can find and time is short. Use what you can find. Because time is short.

That is all. End of rant. For now.

[image from here]

108 Comments

  1. Hiro Boga March 11, 2010

    Brilliant, brilliant rant. Thank you for caring enough about writing–and about the gift at the heart of each of us that tugs and pulls and nudges to be heard–to write this.

    xo Hiro

  2. Rob March 11, 2010

    Oh, hell. Time for me to stop reading this post and “sit the hell down and write.”

    Thanks, Patti!

  3. Jane Steen March 11, 2010

    Nice post, and I agree with all of it except one thing. Call yourself a writer if you work for pay. I write commercial, marketing, fundraising-type pieces and I call myself a freelance writer. If you’re hoping to land a job in any field connected with writing (communications, editing, anything in publishing) I think it’s also a good idea to present yourself as a writer.

    (I am also dipping my toe into fiction for the first time, but I don’t mention that. I tell people I’m “working on some personal projects” and will continue to do so until the WIP is much more advanced!)

  4. Emma Newman March 11, 2010

    Yes. Yes! YES!

    I’ve been filled with an urgency lately that feels similar to that which you write about here, and makes me grumpy about everything I have to do that isn’t writing. Love this. You cut through the nonsense like a gloriously loud belch in the middle of a terrible after dinner speech. So satisfying, and real and human :)

  5. Goddess Leonie March 11, 2010

    oh this is utterly smart and glorious. thank you for being you, patti :)

  6. Beth March 11, 2010

    “Are you warning Hamlet or getting the audience to love you? Warn Hamlet.”

    JEEZUS, that’s outstanding! OUT-STANDING!

    Patti Digh, I do believe I love you!

  7. Marianne March 11, 2010

    Yes. Yes. And yes.

    That’s all.

  8. jeanne March 11, 2010

    well, shoot. i’d have more to say here if i weren’t so damn busy putting the windex back under the sink; clearing out a chair; canceling the class; ordering 5 more library books so i’ll have something to read when i finish the 46 that may or may not run out of allowable renewals soon; fetching a roll of paper towels (cause we’re out of napkins and legal pads); and incessantly clicking the top of my nifty astronaut pen that writes upside down, rightsideup, and sideways, in rain, snow, sleet, and hell, and: is pink.

  9. Amelia March 11, 2010

    I like this!

  10. a.q.s. March 11, 2010

    if there was ever a sign….
    zenpeackeeper on twitter posted: write as if you are dying because you are…which lead me here.

    thank you! i just hope your blog remains and inspiration and doesn’t become another distraction for me! hehe

    thank you.

    p.s.
    i knew i was on the right track when i wrote the first sentence on my website: “i am not a writer, but i do write…” but now i KNOW! :) thank you.

  11. mb March 11, 2010

    i really like this. i especially like the ‘needing a writing shed’ space…room…whatever. been there. done that. now i write in my car at night, parked outside, while my partner takes care of the kids. or my closet. it’s a space. alone. quiet. hidden from all 3 sets of eyes wondering where mama is.

    But to offer another perspective… on not calling yourself a writer if you don’t write. I called myself a writer since I was 5. I didn’t write all the time. Years passed and I didn’t write anything but wish lists and invoices. But I was a writer. It was the mask I was given. I am never separate from being a writer. There are in-breaths, when I take it all in, I see it, it settles in my bones and blood, it works its way through my heart to my brain and down my finger tips. And then i am ready to exhale. This could take a moment or ten years. But I’m still a writer.

  12. Tracy March 11, 2010

    Thank you, Patti. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

  13. kathleen March 11, 2010

    Thank You for this! The thing I love the most is that you follow your own advice, you write from your gut and your passion leaps off the screen and into my heart.
    Thank you.

  14. Ren Allen March 11, 2010

    Your post says it ALL. I ? it!! And I still write on college ruled paper with a pen. But then, I still shoot with a film camera too….now and then. :)

  15. Sandra Bianco March 11, 2010

    Brilliant and inspiring. I’ve done all I have to do today. I’m going to sit and write now. THANK YOU from the very center of each cell of mine.

  16. Kelley March 11, 2010

    THIS is amazing. A M A Z I N G!!! And something I very much needed to hear. Thank you.

  17. Erin Hollowell March 12, 2010

    Thank you for your strong example. I’m glad you exist. It helps to have company on this path. And now, I’m signing off to write some poetry, with a pencil in a notebook. (www.beingpoetry.net)

  18. Jean March 12, 2010

    Just what I needed to hear. You are amazing. Now, I have to go warn Hamlet.

  19. Peggy March 12, 2010

    Your words are inspiration, Patti. I’ll need to add this page to my favorites for every time I’m feeling “the writer’s block”. Thanks for telling it like it should be!!!

  20. teabird March 12, 2010

    You’re not the only one with a legal pad and fountain pen. Actually, WAY too many fountain pens, alas. Choosing the right one is a terrible distraction…

    I love this post!

  21. Jeff Harbert March 12, 2010

    Loved the rant, Patti. Thanks.

  22. Spike March 12, 2010

    If I didn’t already have the world’s biggest girlcrush on you (squee!) then I’d for sure have it now.

    I finally got rid of the Don Music meme (if you aren’t suffering, you aren’t REALLY creating) and now–now I have the Patti Digh Rant to take its place (put your body in place and DO IT).

    Ahhhhh . . . thank you thank you thank you.

  23. Lila March 12, 2010

    Ooh, I love it when you rant.

  24. Liz March 12, 2010

    Kisses for this one. My favorite part:
    “it’s the verb.” Could be the next book: “Author is a verb”.

  25. Sally March 12, 2010

    Well slap me upside the head just when I’ve got a cover story to get out of my head.

  26. Carolynn March 12, 2010

    I agree with everything you’ve said here. Ergo…it is brilliant. *grin*

    Keep writing.

  27. mrs mediocrity March 13, 2010

    this is a great post on writing that could also be applied to life in general…I really love your blog.

  28. the love artist March 13, 2010

    oh alright if you say so patti (oh & btw thank you)

  29. Peggy March 14, 2010

    You hit the f**k’in nail on the head. Thank you for this. I recently started a blog to connect with other parents of heroin addicts. It’s not a pleasant topic, but has saved my sanity and emotional life in many ways. I like to write – and to be able to empty out my head/feelings/fears/guilt/anxieties on to my blog – and get input from other parents in similar circumstances, is very gratifying. Amidst it all, I just submitted some poems to a local arts organization contest – and was notified that I was to be published. Yeah – that does help. And even though I do monitor my blog stats, the process of posting – and trying to engage my readers in a creative way, has been a huge incentive to write. Thanks for telling it like it is. One of my defects is to talk about it vs doing it. You are a role model to me.

  30. Peggy March 14, 2010

    One more P.S. My professional training/life has been in the sciences – microbiology/immunology/public health. I discovered/realized/acknowledged my artistic and creative nature, just in the last 20 years. My home is a reflection of that. And, I’ve begun writing in a more serious way, doing some art, and embracing the joy that this creativity and expression brings me. But, perhaps, the most gratifying, is that my youngest son, Ben, exemplifies all of the arts: visual, musical, written – - – as a successful documentary film maker. He is following his bliss, and expressing himself in such a creative, meaningfu, uninhibited way – I can’t help but feel that I helped nurture and support his artistic path – and now, feel compelled to follow my own. I’m 61 yo, but it’s never too late.

  31. Annie March 15, 2010

    Absolutely excellent! Thank you.

  32. Lee Hancock March 15, 2010

    AMEN SISTAH!!!!

    This quote also applies (happily found last week outside a principal’s office at the Most Wonderful Elementary School I’ve seen in years):

    “We can’t be creative if we refuse to be confused. Change always starts with confusion; cherished interpretations must dissolve to make way for the new. Of course it’s scary to give up what we know. But the abyss is where newness lives. Great ideas and inventions miraculously appear in this space of not knowing. If we can move through the fear and enter the abyss, we are rewarded greatly. We rediscover we are creative.”

    - Margaret Wheatley

  33. Wendy March 15, 2010

    Wonderfully said!

    Just the other day I sent my brother than Onion article you linked to and now I will be sending him this post. (I’ve already forwarded it to my 10 year old daughter because it’s just perfect for her.)

    And I’ve never considered myself any kind of a writer (my blog is for sharing info on how I do the things I do), but a friend recently said that she’d read back through some of my older posts and was cracking up. I guess I have a voice after all. If I let it out. Which I don’t often do.

    I think I need to put your advice up where I can see it daily.

    Just write.

    Thanks.

  34. Spirit In Gear March 15, 2010

    If You Write, or Want to Write – Read this Rant

    Patti Digh wrote an excellent rant on writing – twelves points in all. I’m going to print it out and keep it nearby when I feel tempted to skip writing, censor my writing, or worry about how my writing will be received.

    Here’s a juicy excerpt from …

  35. Theinkytwig.wordpress.com March 15, 2010

    Another terrific post. Thanks for causing me to snort my water I was drinking though – when I read this: “Write it all down, the worst imaginable things you think (trust me, you are not alone in enjoying the smell of your own farts).”

  36. Cathryn Wellner March 17, 2010

    My ex made his living as a writer. Used to always irritate him when people would wax poetic about the book they were going to write some day. His best advice – which was probably the best boost to my own writing – was just to paste your seat to the chair and write. Don’t wait for inspiration. Write. You’ve articulated it with zing! I’ll send all my wanna-be writer friends to this post. Thanks, Patti.

  37. Thank you! This is a brilliant piece and I felt chastened, cared for and inspired all at once.

    I’ve always been curious about who Christine Kane’s coach is, and now I’m wondering if it’s you…

  38. Pearl March 20, 2010

    A good kick in the butt. A book is just content for form. Content matters.

    Indeed, just follow bliss. Anything else is a luxury.

  39. Dave Doolin March 22, 2010

    Wooo… I could go way deep into this one…

    In the end, there is either “Do.” or “Do not.”

    Once you decide to “do” all of sudden life gets very, very short… and time starts to move very, very fast.

  40. debi March 22, 2010

    fabulous and yes, yes, yes. and if your cat who is old and dealing with a terminal disease is sleeping in your lap, a situation i deal with daily, forget capital letters and type with one hand as much as possible – if you type instead of using a pen & paper. just write. i do, i do, i do. bless you.

  41. jylene March 22, 2010

    very very very well-said.
    this is great advice for *anything* we find ourselves making up reasons to put off doing. i find it is quite inspirational to me! quit procrastinating, putting off, waiting for the perfect set of circumstances, etc, etc, etc… JUST GET STARTED!

  42. Lynda Monk March 22, 2010

    Hi Patti, I recently sank into the retreat with Jennifer Louden and LOVED your time with us there – virtually – thank you. I write each day…rain or shine, motivated or not, peanut butter smeared on my fingertips, a fort being made at my feet by my young sons – I write. Laundry stacked, clients to call, cottage guests to greet – I write. Writing workshop to lead – I write in the space between setting up the room and participants walking in. When morning coffee is on – while I wait for the sound of expresso bubbling, I write. I write at midnight, 4:00 am, early in the morning, midday – in every single crack of space – my pen is moving over paper, my fingers on the keyboard, my mind, my heart…they are writing. Thank you for validating what I know in my bones to be true…writers “sit the hell down and write”! Peace to you, Lynda

  43. Lkellytx March 22, 2010

    Thanks for the much needed kick in the pants, Patti!

  44. Kim March 22, 2010

    So I guess I should quit blog stalking and get back to work. Dang the bad luck…

  45. Mariane March 23, 2010

    Thank you for the frank approach. It is important;)… I just said to myself today after an inner ranting about how bad I am and blahblahblah and I should probably take a class blabla after spending time in field doing work that did not come out as perfect as I wanted but then it came to me that hey! I am learning, I am going there, I do put my ass down and get that paint flowing and that is the important part – then selling, marketing etc etc can be done when the body of work has distanced itself from me enough to me wanting it to let go…

  46. Delanie March 24, 2010

    Thank you Patti for this post. I needed to hear so much of what you wrote, for my writing.

    “I write.” I like that. Thanks!

  47. Gracie March 24, 2010

    This is the best article on how to write EVER. No, I mean it. Reduce the signal-to-noise ratio, and focus on the signal.

    (And I still often write with pen & paper. Maybe I’m archaic, too.)

    Thank you so much for this post.

  48. Heather H. March 27, 2010

    Wow. I am an infrequent reader and have never left you a comment before. I think you wrote this rant just for me. Thank you.

  49. Jules March 27, 2010

    I think I just fell in love with a woman.

  50. Feithline March 28, 2010

    This is one of the best writing rants ever.
    :)

    Thanks, Patty! I needed to read this today!

  51. Abbie March 28, 2010

    love this – great *honest* suggestions!

  52. Jacqueline Burns March 31, 2010

    Thank you!

    So well said. Great no-nonsense advice.
    You took the words, or the sentiments right out of my mouth.

    I’ve RT’d it.
    Can I quote you on this with your link on our blog? Our folk would love it.

  53. Ronet March 31, 2010

    Excellent & brilliant, and now you’ve knocked down all my excuses, I’m off to pick up my pen and paper (no you’re not the only one who writes longhand) and get down to some writing.

  54. Kats Eye On Life March 31, 2010

    Wow. I am terribly behind on reading your posts – heck, I’m terribly behind on reading ALL posts – there are 649 unread posts in my Google reader. BUT – I read four books (not including the silly one for my financial accounting class) in the past week and maybe, I needed to read this post TODAY. Because it is PERFECT for me TODAY. Thank you, Patti – I can express in this little comment box how much I needed your words. Big hugs from Ohio!

  55. Walter Hawn April 1, 2010

    Friend of mine wrote her first two books with a typer set atop her automatic washing machine. She stood and wrote while the machine did its thing.

    After her books sold, her husband decided she deserved a real office with a desk and everything. She tried it, but had to go back to the laundry room to get anything done.

  56. Lisa Kelly Zuba April 4, 2010

    I’m sitting in the beautiful Rice University library. It’s mostly a wonderful place to write. Except for today when I’m finding all kinds of handy distractions: refill my water bottle, check to see if coffee shop open, go to bathroom again, eat celery sticks, look at books…
    Then I remember this post. I need a good kick in the pants so I re-read it again.
    Thanks for being there.
    Now it’s time to write.

  57. Suzanna DiMilo April 4, 2010

    Patti you are so right!

    I believe that we become something by doing, runers run, painters paint, and writers write.

    I love your book, it is inspirational, thank you.

  58. Anne Christ April 9, 2010

    Fabulous post! I have taken it to heart….

  59. suzi blu April 10, 2010

    So You Want To Be A Writer – By Charles Bukowski

    if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
    in spite of everything,
    don’t do it.
    unless it comes unasked out of your
    heart and your mind and your mouth
    and your gut,
    don’t do it.
    if you have to sit for hours
    staring at your computer screen
    or hunched over your
    typewriter
    searching for words,
    don’t do it.
    if you’re doing it for money or
    fame,
    don’t do it.
    if you’re doing it because you want
    women in your bed,
    don’t do it.
    if you have to sit there and
    rewrite it again and again,
    don’t do it.
    if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
    don’t do it.
    if you’re trying to write like somebody
    else,
    forget about it.
    if you have to wait for it to roar out of
    you,
    then wait patiently.
    if it never does roar out of you,
    do something else.

    if you first have to read it to your wife
    or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
    or your parents or to anybody at all,
    you’re not ready.

    don’t be like so many writers,
    don’t be like so many thousands of
    people who call themselves writers,
    don’t be dull and boring and
    pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
    love.
    the libraries of the world have
    yawned themselves to
    sleep
    over your kind.
    don’t add to that.
    don’t do it.
    unless it comes out of
    your soul like a rocket,
    unless being still would
    drive you to madness or
    suicide or murder,
    don’t do it.
    unless the sun inside you is
    burning your gut,
    don’t do it.

    when it is truly time,
    and if you have been chosen,
    it will do it by
    itself and it will keep on doing it
    until you die or it dies in you.

    there is no other way.

    and there never was.

  60. cathy April 11, 2010

    Wow. Thank you. You have solved 40% of my professional angst. I will direct the endless queries about how to write and publish to this wonderful piece.

    Thank you for saying it all so clearly.

  61. Wendy Watkins April 15, 2010

    I clicked on this link at the perfect time–your wisdom reminds me of what I know. The best reminder today, is to just write. To take my wisdom, passion and experience and share it with the world-to let my words make a difference for me today and others if they may. I am glad for the reminder of not needing to take anymore classes-thank you!
    I do love to write wherever I am-I must admit, I have never tried the toilet!
    Thank you Patti!

    Wendy

  62. Lisa Ann Courington April 16, 2010

    Patti-
    Thank you for the thoughtful rant. It is passionate but also very specific. And that’s what some of us who’ve let ourselves grow dull need.

    A recent strategy I’ve used to some success is a free but private online journaling program that “rewards” users for consistently writing. For just over 37 days I’ve been writing a minimum of three pages. Thrilling and quite out of character for me.

    The trick is that they hand out badges for steadiness. They ‘virtually’ honor your effort and somehow, it’s got me into writing more than I have since college.

    I’m a sucker for badges.

    Write strong…

  63. kikit April 22, 2010

    very very helpful. i just love everything you wrote here. so spontaneous. thanks a lot.

  64. Perle Champion April 26, 2010

    Thanks for the swift kick in the… I needed that.
    I still write most things first long hand and then while transcribing, they evolve. All my purses have one requirement: my journal must fit in it and I carry a pocket version on my morning walk – writing while walking seems strange, but so many good ideas strike me then and they’ll be gone when I get home. Thanks again – gone writing.

  65. Marisa Birns April 26, 2010

    I love legal pads and fountain pens.

    Yep, after all is said and done and read and studied, the only thing a writer has to do is write.

    I also write at a dining room table. Was envious of people who blogged that they were designing/building/furnishing glorious writing sheds in their gardens.

    Live in an apartment so that’s out. Put a green plant near computer and voila, my little piece of Eden!

    Thank you for you ranty post. Quite enjoyable.

  66. Mary April 26, 2010

    I love this. Thank you. For years I struggled with wanting to be perfect and to have perfect conditions. It still breaks my heart to think of all the writing I missed during that time.

  67. Elissa April 27, 2010

    Yes.
    Beautiful.

  68. Eileen April 27, 2010

    You inspire even when you rant! Brilliant Post!

  69. Dian McCray May 5, 2010

    If you want to write, paint, sculpt, sew, build a body of any kind of art (or really see any goal to completion), READ THIS BLOG! Patti pulls no punches, except for the one that pops you right between the eyes. :)

  70. Elizabeth Cassidy May 6, 2010

    Rant on. It really did and does help to get shaken out of the tree of excuses!

  71. Alyson B. Stanfield May 6, 2010

    I’m late to the party, but someone just pointed me to this post after I wrote one about getting to work in the studio. (I’ll link to it in my name). This is brilliant, Patti! You have the guts that I want to have in my blog posts. I think I’m too nice sometimes–want to be liked too much.

    I love “Sit the hell down” and “Shut up about ideal conditions.”

    I was fortunate to hear you on Jen Louden’s retreat and happy to find you here. Thanks for your frank post.

  72. EmmaK May 13, 2010

    I kind of disagree. I have nothing against people writing if they want to write but what with the blogosphere and all it is getting a bit like American Idol. Many thousands now think they are a good writers just because a few hundred people read their blog. WRONG! Good writing is effective communication. I think the main thing to think about before one writes a book or blog is do I really have something to say and not to just ramble on stream of conciousness style.

  73. As a wannabe writer, I truly appreciate your words.

    But I have to say, until you find your voice, writing is difficult. It’s the same case with “drawing”, but people call it “style”. Until you find your own, personal way to express yourself, you feel like you are copying other people (which you are) or you are applying the correct technique, and your work is not as satisfying. You have your ideas in your head, but they come out as a disappointment.

  74. Mina May 26, 2010

    Oh wow! – I really enjoyed reading this , it came in perfect time since i am working on a fantasy novel , “sit the hell down and write” Love this advice , Thanks! :)

  75. Dita May 29, 2010

    I feel so thankful that I landed here to see this post. It’s not that I have never heard it. Every “writer” has. (I’ll try not to call my self a “writer” -) I just try to write- to tell what I wanted people to know even when I am not here…. Any way, my point is – you inspired me to pick up my pen and WRITE. THANK YOU

    Dita

  76. Hannah Katy June 24, 2010

    Ah, I adored this… And I believe I am on the right track! I actually don’t like the word writer… Something does not fit when I try to sew my name next to that word. It makes the word sound way too occupational for my liking. I wake up every morning and feel called to write, as if God thinks I need it just as much sleeping and eating. And that is why I write, because a loud voice pent up in the body of young woman needs to break out and speak to the world. Thank you for this.

    Best,

    Hannah Katy

  77. giovanna July 24, 2010

    thank you for writing this.

  78. Karileeo July 24, 2010

    Lovely.

    I’m going to have to attempt a similar rant, although mine will be about small business marketing. I love “We are always – ALWAYS – in choice.”

    Thank you for #5. It helped me figure out something I needed to get clear on tonight.

  79. Neil July 25, 2010

    I usually hate posts about writing, and I was prepared to hate this one, too. Instead, I bookmarked it.

  80. bsmp August 3, 2010

    After reading this post I went to bed (writing a new post for my blog) at 1:30am and I had to wake up at 5:45am to get to my accounting class at 7:00am. And it was so worth it! I felt so inspired! Thank you so much for the inspiration. Message received: If I have to write I’ll just WRITE!

  81. Dani August 15, 2010

    I see you wrote this back in March. And I just found it today. Right when I needed to. Or, write when I needed to.

    Thank you.

  82. twitter.com/WordsAreFood August 17, 2010

    Love the post, Patti! I totally agree with you. I’ve recently made an effort to write about anything and everything, whenever I can–waiting in line, on the train, during a dull moment at work, etc. You never know when you’ll stumble across a gem in the scribbles and scratches. I’m reading Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” at the moment, and she has some of the same views on writing. I was drawn to this line she wrote: “…the only way I can get anything done is to write really, really sh***y first drafts.” I try not to waste time worrying about how good my writing will be, or what others will think of it (leads to creative paralysis), I just WRITE!:)

  83. BretInVancouver August 31, 2010

    A lot of brilliant, thought-provoking advice here. Thank you.

  84. Patti Anna August 31, 2010

    A tad long winded don’t you think? Perhaps I shall continue to write and throw those pages in the cubby in the desk, only to write another a few weeks later and throw it in the cubby. My writing isn’t for you, it’s for me. My soul is shred in those pages in the cubby, long winded and effortless sentences that call my being to myself.

    Good lesson Patti.
    Keep it up.

  85. Wendy Orlowski October 2, 2010

    “Write like you’re dying ’cause you are!”
    That summed it all up perfectly for me Patti. Thanks for the the not-so-subtle kick in the pants bit of reality. I loved your rant.

  86. Sara Rae November 4, 2010

    Thanks for the kick in the pants, Patti. Or maybe this was more like slap upside the back of my head. Either way, I needed it. :)

  87. Ian Lidster December 8, 2010

    Just excellent advice, Patti. As a long-time guy who writes, and has actually earned a decent enough living at it, your ‘rant’ is invaluable and a keeper. Thanks.

  88. Patricia Salinas April 4, 2011

    I am a artist who stumbled upon your blog and must say the very same principle applies. Its not a writers shed I crave but a studio to paint in. When I read your comment about concentration camps it hit me that I need to quit longing for the perfect space and just paint. Even if the space is not perfect the art can happen. I don’t know what is stopping me. I love to paint and have so many ideas. I need to just quit wasting time and get busy painting. Thank you I needed this.

  89. Yolanda Garfield April 16, 2011

    Brilliant, enjoyable, and worst of all for lazy me, TRUE! I shared this on my facebook profile as I know people who write for a living. Wonderful inspirational stuff. Thanks Patty.

  90. Sari Grove June 21, 2011

    Thank you! I am so tired of telling people that I am an artist, the word has lost all meaning…Now I’m just going to say whatever I am currently doing…”What do you do?” “Well, right now I am working on a sculpture…” & then they won’t have to tell me how their wife, nephew, third cousin, aunt is an artist too! & then I can avoid having to give them that awkward silence that I do…Thank you…

  91. Molly September 8, 2011

    Blew in here at random while reading Life is a Verb – am up to the bit where you say you look like a q-tip, so I decided to check (you don’t, BTW)

    Saw this post in one of those little boxes and thought “Hmmm I’M trying to write a book, this could be useful…” Well NO SH*T its useful !!!

    Speaking as someone who is literally awaiting Divine Guidance to begin, I have to officially let you know that you’re clearly an Angel :)

    I am going to copy this out and whack a picture of an angel on it and stick it to the front of my virgin, almond blossom, embossed and gilded writing journal, which has been waiting for too long for Divinity to smack me round the back of the head and shout “Sit the hell down and write !! Write like you are dying ! You are !!”

    Thankyou :)

    PS: Life is a Verb is brilliant too.

  92. Naureen February 28, 2012

    Loved it. Bookmarked it.

  93. Marilyn Taylor McDowell March 27, 2012

    Yep! That about wraps it up.

  94. Kaarina Dillabough June 4, 2012

    I just found this post, and it is THE BEST ADVICE about writing I’ve ever encountered. I’m inspired. Cheers! Kaarina

  95. Joanne Warfield June 16, 2012

    YES!!!  This is truth in action.  ”Get over yourself” is so true.  Who cares anyway???  I’m inspired now.  Thanks!

  96. Joanne Warfield June 16, 2012

    This is SO inspiring.  It’s so true that we just take ourselves so seriously.  Who the @@$# cares?  Get it out there@  Yes!

  97. Steve June 16, 2012

    Thanks. I needed that!

  98. [...] How to write (a book). A wee rant Don’t say you’re a writer if you’re not writing. You’re not a writer, and who cares anyway, if you’re not writing. Even if you’re writing, don’t call yourself a writer. Say, instead, “I write.” It’s the verb that’s important, not the noun. [...]

  99. Connie August 23, 2012

    Thank you very much!

  100. Amy Young Miller September 1, 2012

    I needed this kick in the pants. Thank you very much. Now I must get back to my writing.

  101. Rena Tucker September 14, 2012

    FAN-FUCKING-TASTIC!!!! I wish I’d read this 5 years ago. Or 5 months ago. Or…well, hell…today *is* the first day of the rest of my life, after all…. ;-)

  102. Kathleen O'Brien September 15, 2012

    I did fill in the lines with “painter” and took what you said in. It resonates! I mostly believe and do as you say but lately have been so focused on putting myself out there to keep up with the “big Kids” that it is a very good reminder about keeping on track with my purpose – do the best painting I can till i drop…

  103. maureen claffy September 19, 2012

    Very Julia Cameron in “Letters to a Young Artist”. Timeless advice

  104. Kaylee October 5, 2012

    This. is. awesome! And so in line with how I’ve been feeling lately. For the last 6 months or so, I’ve been trying to follow the rules of the blogosphere. Y’know, write posts around 1200 words, use relevant photos…I don’t have to tell you, you’ve probably heard ‘em.
    But I’ve also been feeling trapped. I don’t want to just write. I want to draw my fun little pictures, talk about the adorable leaves I found chasing each other in a small pool of water…Be my whimsical, weirdo self. Your line: “Why does your blog need to lead to anywhere?” – hello! You’re right. I had this idea that I needed to be a successful blogger to be self-employed. Do I?
    Nope… Anyway, just thinking out loud here. This post is wonderful. Thank you for freeing me with your words, Patti. =)

  105. Kathy Austin November 30, 2012

    I love your rant! It’s very helpful! I need to print it out and put it in front of me every day when I start whining that I have too much laundry, too many dishes, too many errands, or too many calls to make to be writing poetry! And lately, I’ve used the excuse that I “need to network online,” with poets who’ve made it and those who haven’t. That’s poetic activity, too, isn’t it? Not! At least, not to such an extent.

  106. Penny Simms December 28, 2012

    Thank you….

  107. [...] schrijftip van Patti Digh: ‘Sit the hell down and write!’. Ik kan je haar artikel ‘How to write (a book). A wee rant’ van harte aanbevelen. Een echte virtuele schop onder je kont, met mooie [...]

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