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Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

“The Office is Closed”

By Steven Pressfield
Published: August 27, 2014

This blog can get kinda hardcore at times, I know. The posts can seem relentlessly insistent on hard work, self-discipline, and so forth.

John Steinbeck. "Let the well fill up overnight."

Today let’s talk about the other side.

Let’s talk about when the writing day is over.

I’m a big believer in “the office is closed.” What I mean is that, when the day’s work is done, I turn the switch off completely. I close the factory door and get the hell out of Dodge.

This is not laziness or exasperation or fatigue. It’s a conscious, goal-oriented decision based upon a very specific conception of reality.

In this conception there exist two levels upon which we work. In the first level we operate consciously and with deliberate intent. We apply will. We invoke talent. We labor.

On the second level, we don’t do a damn thing. We consign the endeavor to our unconscious (or to the Muse, if you prefer.) We very deliberately hand off our enterprise to these invisible mysterious forces.

Let the goddess take over. She wants to. It’s her job. And she’s a lot smarter than we are.

That’s what I mean by “the office is closed.”

The best thing you and I can do at the end of the writing day is to stash our work gloves in our locker, hang our leather apron on a hook, and head for the workshop door. If we’ve truly put in our hours today, we know it. We have done enough. It won’t help to keep at it like a dog worrying a bone.

I forgot who said this (I think it was John Steinbeck in Journal of a Novel):

Let the well fill up again overnight.

That’s it exactly. Someone asked Steinbeck on another occasion if he ever stretched himself at the end of a working day. He replied with an emphatic no. The phrase he used was that to keep working when you were tired was “the falsest kind of economy.” You might eke out an extra paragraph or two tonight, but you’ll pay tomorrow.

Here’s how I judge it in my own day. I work till I start making mistakes. When I find myself misspelling words and generating typos, I take that as a sign. That’s the factory whistle. The shift is over. Grab your lunch pail and hang up your boots.

Let’s get the f*%k outa here.
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Posted in Writing Wednesdays
18 Comments

What It Takes

What It Takes

Learning from the Airline Industry

By Callie Oettinger | Published: August 29, 2014

Remember this thing?

Before computers stepped in, if you wanted to find a book in your library, you walked over to a shelf of drawers (or a few walls of drawers depending on the size of your library), scanned the labels on the outside of each drawer, opened the drawer that corresponded with the author or title for which you were searching, and then flipped through the cards until you found the title. It took going through this process to find out if a specific book was available in your library. If the card wasn’t there, either the book wasn’t available, or (as was often the case in my elementary school’s library) someone took out the card and didn’t put it back, or put it back in the wrong place. For this reason, if I didn’t find Ramona Quimby Age 8 within the Title catalog, it was in my best interest to check the Author catalog to see if a card was there. If it was, that would indicate that another third grader had likely rendered the Title card for Ramona Quimby Age 8 MIA, but that the book did exist within the library. The next step would be to check the shelves. If it wasn’t there, a check through the carts of unshelved books followed. Last stop was checking with the librarian to see if she knew the book’s whereabouts, followed by a reservation placed for the book if it was, indeed, checked out by one of my schoolmates.

Today, though… I don’t need to leave my home to see what’s on the shelves of my local library — or to scan the millions of books available for sale online. And, if I want it now, in most cases, I can download the book and start reading it within minutes.

The airline industry went through the same experience, transitioning from a paper filing system to a computer system, in order to streamline the reservation process. Its transition to a new system and the events that follow make good reading for the publishing industry, which is still lagging behind.
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Posted in What It Takes | 9 Comments

What It Takes

What It Takes

The Things You Complain About are the Things You Could Be Changing

By Shawn Coyne | Published: August 22, 2014

In the dream, the writer and reader need no publisher or retailer. There’s no pooh-poohing gatekeeper or everything store keeping a writer in the wilderness or hiding his gems in the stockroom.

It ain't just a song

There is no front table. No cooperative advertising.

It’s simple. In the dream, the writer and reader are connected. One creates. The other supports the creation.

The writer writes something. He publishes it by working with other artists (editors, copyeditors, proofreaders, cover artists, book designers)…not as an employer demanding 40 hours a week of obedience and having to offer a salary, health benefits, and possibly a 401K for that servitude (overwhelming expenses that can take the fun out of anything).

Instead, the writer negotiates a fair fee for the piecemeal work and the supporting artists deliver.

The way this publishing works doesn’t require that the writer hand over his work to a corporation just to get Wal-Mart or Barnes & Noble or an independent bookstore to carry a copy for couple of weeks.

Instead, the writer uses a virtual network to let the people who like his work know when he has something new available. Over many years, the writer attracts readers to his corner of the universe.


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Posted in What It Takes | 17 Comments
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