Day 17: You only fail if you stop writing

Tonight I turn to one of the finest philosophical minds to have emerged from postwar North America: William Shatner.

“Regret is the worst human emotion. If you took another road, you might have fallen off a cliff. I’m content.”

It would be easy for me to succumb to regret. How did I lose all this time? Why has it taken me 200 years to get this far into my novel, only to find myself at the bottom of a metaphorical mineshaft? A situation so desperate that the only way for me to bust out was to join the Clarion West Write-a-thon (#writeathon) and go on a diet?

These questions are impossible to answer, and anyway, according to Shatner regret is useless. He’s spent enough time in alternate universes to know.

All you can do is seize the day, as I did today, but one sentence at a time rather than trying to do everything in the world by 9 o’clock. I picked a goal of writing one scene and then I wrote the scene. I wrote a few paragraphs after that, too. I’m a big tipper.

This may not sound like much, but John McPhee claimed he rarely wrote more than 500 words a day, and he’s done fairly well for himself with his Pulitzer and his National Book Awards and everyone bowing down to him and showering him with swag bags and stuff.

“People say to me, ‘Oh, you’re so prolific.’ God, it doesn’t feel like it – nothing like it. But you know, you put an ounce in a bucket each day, you get a quart.”

How to write lots and lots or pretend that you do

McPhee once tried tying himself to a chair to force himself to write more. This scheme failed, probably because he became annoyed and untied himself. In 2019, it’s more important to disable the internet. Also, stashing a dog under your desk can backfire. As the dog sinks deeper into sleep, it will emit sleepion particles. Humans cannot withstand sleepion particles. There are other hazards as well. This is why I like coffee shops.

The title of this post is from Ray Bradbury, a man who knew something about putting one word after another.

Tomorrow: More sentences, more scenes, more seaweed and carrot sticks on my stupid diet.

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