Grant not unto me a spirit of idleness,
of lust for power,
and of vain speaking.
Thus begins the prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian, which we Orthodox Christians repeat every day during Lent. Now, I’m aware that today is Easter for those of you on the Gregorian calendar (which is, um, everyone), and that a good portion of you are not religious or don’t care about Orthodox Lent. But never mind that! This is a series about writing, not a series about religious observances.
I am going to use this prayer to structure the next few posts, though, because it’s a good one. The challenges of writing are not so different from the challenges of the spiritual life, and the pleas of St. Ephraim are certainly applicable to the writer’s vocation. So let us take this line by line:
Grant not unto me a spirit of idleness
I saw a tweet the other day that said, roughly, “Being a writer is 3% talent and 97% not being distracted by the internet.” I don’t think I’ve ever met a writer who didn’t identify with this sentiment. For me, given that I’m still writing in my free time while also trying to hold down a day job, it’s especially acute, because after a hard day of work the thing I most want to do is to curl up and read webcomics. Or play Magic. Or do any number of things other than the difficult, demanding job of writing a stupid story. I tell myself that the full-time writers have it easier… but I don’t actually think that’s true.
I have been very bad at this for the past few months. Mostly, it’s because I let my Magic playing take over too much of my writing time. I took a hiatus from Magic for Lent, and my writing output has gone up dramatically. As a result, I’ve reevaluated how much time I’m going to devote to the game once the fast ends, regardless of how much I love it.
A maxim I’ve heard over and over again from pro writers is that you need to put your butt in the chair and write. No amount of other things can possibly make up for sitting down and puking out words until you have enough; and then you have to pick through your verbal vomit to find out which chunks of it are gold. Everything else is just idleness.
Next time: Discouragement