My artist and writer friends inspire me because they’ve developed the habit of art. That has me thinking about the question a non-fiction writer posed recently: how do you write (or start) a novel? It’s easy to throw out silly phrases: one page a time or the Nike approach (just do it), but that’s annoying. I don’t outline (not ahead of time – it can be helpful after the first draft), so how do I start and keep at it? Most of the time, I have a vague idea and then something will happen – a snatch of conversation overheard and I imagine the circumstances around it or a tangential detail in a news story will spark something…. Sometimes a theme won’t leave me alone. If I go for long walks and allow myself time to ruminate, characters tend to show up. I imagine little scenes, start writing some of them down and a story emerges. I tend to think most novelists have to find their own way. I have met few who write a novel the same way twice, much less feel they have a handle on the process no matter how many they write.

Aaron Gansky has more on observation and what Flannery O’Connor referred to as the habit of art.

Great (and concise!) advice from Rob Roberge on metaphors and similes.

Write a message to your future self and see what happens in a few years. Great thing to do right before college or grad school to have emailed after graduation.

Over the next few weeks or months, decide which five activities are essential to your life as a writer.

What are mine, you ask?

Every day I read

Every day I write

Every day I imagine

Every day I reflect

Every day I ask for direction

There is no secret. It is daily work. You don’t have to sit and write for 8 or 10 hours a day. Some people might, but for me that’s a chore and counter-productive. The amount of time is secondary to daily activity and that’s what keeps me both productive and joyful.

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