Friday, September 13, 2013

Butt In Chair

The greatest writing success tip I've ever received came from nanowrimo: Butt in Chair (BIC or AIC, depending on your customary vocabulary).

"Butt in Chair" is actually what I've been doing all this time with no posting. I actually have been posting, just not at this particular blog. I've been busy writing content for four other websites/blogs, plus contributing to at least two writing projects in this time, and several unrelated-to-writing projects.

Well, nothing in my life is ever unrelated to writing, but you know what I mean.

What is "Butt in Chair"? It's writing.  Although I long for the days when I can have half an ergonomic keyboard strapped to each wrist, thus allowing me type in any body position, for now, the only way for me to type is to put my butt in a chair and pound the keys.

Why is "Butt in Chair" so important? Because writing has to be a priority. And it can only be a priority if you commit time to it daily (or nearly daily, but on some schedule, depending on temperament). Some people strive for an hour of writing a day. Some people set goals for a certain number of chapters or scenes per week. I personally am a fan of 300 words per day (although I often write 4-5 times that, and, during Nano, have hit several 10k+ days). Goals are important, but dedicating time to your craft is even more important. Time is money, after all, and even the Bible says, "For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also" (Luke 12:34).

Why am I quoting the Bible at you (as an Agnostic, it is really an odd habit)? Because it's a saying you've probably heard before, and because it's true. If you break down your finances to look at where  you spend your money, you'll see what I mean.

For example, my finances say we spend the most money on where we live, and second, on food. Since food is very important to this food addict, that makes a Hell of a lot of sense. In other families, it may be entertainment, or vacations, or cable.

But you can also look at your priorities (note, I don't say values, I say priorities) by looking at where you spend  your time. Most of us spend most of our time at our 9-5's. That makes sense. We all have to eat, right? (If you don't like this, my blog about Bucking the American Dream might be for you).

Second on that list is usually time with our loved ones: family, friends, spouse.

Third on that list is usually our favorite hobby.

I leave off here "decompression time". Most of us spend several hours a day watching TV. We don't really care too much what we are watching, we're really just recovering from the demands of those around us. I throw that in with our work-day, because if we weren't holding down soul-sucking jobs, we wouldn't need to decompress as diligently as we currently do.

So what is the third-largest chunk of your time? Is it reading books? Is it writing? Is it doing household chores? Chores may not seem like a "hobby" of sorts, but it shows cleanliness as being a high priority in your life. Otherwise, you'd just let things get messy.

For a lot of us, our priorities are not our values. In other words, we're deeply frustrated (or completely unaware--it depends on the person) that we spend so much time on things we "have to" do, and so little time on things we "want to" do or "should be doing".

This is the classic battle of priority vs. value. If we value giving alms to the poor, but our priority is to live comfortably in the same way our parents did, then we have a struggle (unless you make a lot of money and can do both).  If we value family time but our highest priority is a clean house, we have a struggle.

More to the point of this blog: if our value is writing, but our priority is anything else, we have a struggle.

Values are nearly impossible to change purposefully: what is important to you is important to you. But priorities are merely an administrative pain in the behind to change. The point is,  you can change them. And you do so by structuring  your day.

You dedicate a certain amount of time and/or effort, and you push aside anything that tries to get in the way. Thus: Butt in chair.

If you put your butt in the chair to write, you will, eventually, write. There are plenty of tools to help you, like the Nano perennial favorite: Write or Die.

Scrivener, too, offers a full-screen version to reduce distractions.

No, these people don't pay me to put in these testimonials: they are based on experience and word-of-mouth. I know they work because I use them (Scrivener), or I know a million people who swear by them (Write or die).

The point is, if you put your butt in chair, you will write. And if you write, you will get better at writing. And when you get better at writing, you make all of us happy.

Make me happy: Put your butt in your chair.

Do you have any tools or practices to make yourself write? Comment and share them with us!

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