The secret to good writing is, as Dr. Howard Stein repeatedly told his graduate students at Yale University, the University of Texas-Austin, The University of Iowa, SUNY-Purchase and Columbia University over the course of a continued 60 year teaching career, is simply: “Ass on Chair.”
That means, as Dr. Stein would often yell at us, you sit there in front of a typewriter or pen and pencil or a computer until you make some kind of positive progress that wasn’t there before you sat down.
Some of Dr. Stein’s star Playwrights at Yale included Christopher Durang (A History of the American Film, Beyond Therapy, Sex and Longing), Wendy Wasserstein (Uncommon Women and Others, The Heidi Chronicles, The Sisters Rosensweig), Albert Innaurato (Gemini), Michael Weller (Moonchildren, Loose Ends, Spoils of War), Glenn Young (founder of Applause Books)…
The “Ass on Chair” philosophy of good writing has served me well.
“Ass on Chair” does not forgive “Writer’s Block” or support “I don’t feel like writing today.” If you want to write for a living there will be down days but instead of doing something else, you put “Ass on Chair” and come up with something anyway.
If you use “Ass on Chair” to write a single page a day, at the end of the year you will have 365 pages finished. 365 pages is a book in any publisher’s book. Blogging is an excellent way to make “Ass on Chair” work for you every day.
Sit down every single day and post something original in your blog and writing will become an important and expected part of your daily routine. “Writer’s Block” is a synonym for laziness. There is no such thing. You either want to write or you don’t want to write. Nothing and no one is blocking you from writing and to believe otherwise is to support the idea that writing is special or mystical or that it deserves inspiration and intervention of the divine to happen. That is wrong.
Writing is a job and it is dirty, hard, work and you do it even when you don’t want to do it: If you are seeking romance in writing, don’t write a book, read one instead. Now some days I just sit there with “Ass on Chair” and I think and plan and plot and that, in my ongoing process of creation, is active writing even though I may only finally leave my chair with a few positive points of external movement; but the internal advancement on those “thinking days” can be staggeringly good and I have learned to value them as a part of my own “Ass on Chair” doctrine of good writing.
While I get a lot out of plotting and planning days as part of my “Ass on Chair” routine, if you’re just starting out or trying to find a writing groove, give yourself words to count at the end of the day as proof of your success.
I find around 333 words fit on one Word document page so if you work every day to make 333 words visible, you will feel great accomplishment in your life as a writer and at the end of a year you will have 121,545 words and that, again, is a book in any publisher’s book.
If you have a writing philosophy that works for you please share it here so we can learn from your successes.