Unless You’re Drilling And Filling

Have you run out of ideas? Do you feel blocked? Do you feel that you should be writing more instead of talking about writing? Which is more important to you: writing, or being a writer? Do you like to get published and make a living?


Even many great writers of the past faced the same literary foes we all do. From procrastination and writer’s block to confounded interruptions and sleeplessness.

Victor Hugo, when he found himself distracted, simply removed his clothes and instructed his servant to return them several hours later. Naked and alone, he wrote.

Honoré de Balzac relied on coffee, “black water” as he called it, which when he drank it caused a “general commotion.” He wrote:

“Ideas begin to move like the battalions of the Grand Army on the battlefield, and the battle takes place. Things remembered arrive at full gallop, ensign to the wind. The light cavalry, the artillery of logic hurry up with their train and ammunition, the shafts of wit start up like sharp shooters. Similes arise, the paper is covered with ink, for the struggle commences and is concluded with torrents of black water, just like a battle with powder.”

He wrote from midnight to noon as did Kafka who suffered from insomnia and is said to have found sleep impossible so long as words were growing inside him.

Whether you are a night owl or an early bird, whether you drink coffee or tea or wine for inspiration, whether you have a corner or a desk to work at, or you write during long soaks in the bathtub like Benjamin Franklin, you don’t get paid unless you work.

Dentists have a saying: “Unless you’re drilling and filling, you’re not billing.” In other words you don’t get paid unless you work.

“The main reason I make a six-figure income from my writing is that I work 12 hours a day, five days a week, 50 weeks a year. If you are putting in 30 hours a week now, consider increasing it to 40.” Robert W. Bly

When I am blocked, which is unfortunately on most days lately, I just start scribbling on the blank page. I let my hand move across the page and write down whatever comes to my mind. Stream-of-consciousness sort of thing. Most of the time whatever I write doesn’t make sense. But I still do it. And not long after I am back to my story, to my writing. As Gary Paulsen said:

“The reality is, you just write. And if you do it correctly, it’s like carving pieces off yourself.”


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