The Writer in the Next Cubicle

I don’t know who you are, or where you’re from, but I know why you come here. Or at least, I think I know why you come here…

Cube Life

You’re probably another writer out there somewhere, maybe stuck in some situation you don’t want to be stuck in. Maybe you work in a bookstore and you’re dreaming of actually having something you write make it onto the shelves someday. Maybe you’re writing for a small website or a PR firm—but you wish you could put your skills to better use. Maybe you’re a teacher or a nurse and you’re thinking about writing on those precious days off. Maybe you’re between jobs and you’re hanging out at a diner journaling and thinking of starting to write some stories. Maybe it’s something else. I get it. So, today’s post, just maybe, will give you a little hope and a pocketful of courage to start writing more seriously—or to keep going. I certainly hope so.

So, here’s the thing you may not know about me: like many of you, I have a day job. That’s right. A regular 40-hours-a-week (up to 50-hours-a-week) gig that pays the bills. I work in an office with a bunch of other people who are generally quiet nice. I wake up, commute in, fire up the PC and get to work, grab lunch, work some more and then head home. And I do it five days a week, Monday through Friday, just like any other working Schlub.

But I also have a little extra thing going. I write fiction on the weekends. And I’ve had some moderate success. I have had a few stories published here and there. And I keep writing, faithfully, every weekend. Creating more words and more stories. I can’t imagine giving it up now.

So, I wrote this post just because I want you to know I’m out there somewhere. That’s all. I’m out there. I might be in an office half way around the world from you. I might be in a nearby town or down the block from where you work. Or I might even be that guy just over the cubicle wall. That kind of quiet, but funny co-worker. (I hope!) But I write and it keeps me going and happy and undaunted no matter what the working world—or life—throws at me. And if I can do it, maybe you can too.

And not only that—you can do it right now, today, wherever you are or whatever situation you find yourself in. You, too, can write fiction. You don’t have to go to some school, or enroll in some workshop, or live in Brooklyn, or have the right connections, or writer buddies, or move to Bali. You don’t even have to quit your day job, if you don’t want to. If you have a little paper and a pen (or a computer and some electricity) you can go home and write tonight. (Or at least this weekend, like I do.) And as long as you have a good idea, put in the work, and aren’t too worried about the outcome—you can pound out a first draft. And then a second and a third and…someday finish your story.

I’m not saying it will be good, or that it will be published, or make money—but sitting down and staring at the blank page is the first step in writing any story. Getting it on the page, capturing it from the ether—minute after minute, hour after hour. It’s not easy, it never was. But don’t let those imaginary barriers surrounding you—often times ones you have created yourself—make you put off something indefinitely which you could be doing right now. Today. 

Resolve to write, sit down and do it. As easy and hard as that is, it’s the only solution.

Best of Luck to You,

Darius


Before I go, I also wanted to add a little something about the passing of Ursula K. Le Guin. But I think there are others elsewhere who have done a far more admirable job than I could have. I’m listing them below, but before I go let me just offer this quote from her to get you even more fired up on writing:

“…we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope.”

Wow. I love that. Rest in peace, Ursula.

Here are some really great pieces about her:

1. A remembrance by Jo Walton from Tor.com.

2. A speech of hers from 2014.

3. Writing tips from her via the inimitable Chuck Wendig.

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Another Writing Tweak: The Refresher

Like most fiction writers these days, I also have a day job. You know, the one you where you go to a central location for 40+ hours a week? But when I’m able to break for lunch or get in early before the boss, my thoughts turn to my trusty side hustle: writing fiction. Well, there’s one little tweak (besides listening to music) I adopted last year for my fiction-writing sessions. I’m going to call it “The Refresher.”

LEAD Processor

Since I have a day job, I usually have about a week between my writing sessions (which I do every Sunday). With life intervening in the mean time, I’m liable to forget important plot details, nuances of setting or who said what when. Sometimes, I even forget where the story was at ENTIRELY. ENTIRELY! Which is not surprising when you have lots of other things on your mind. I regularly found myself having to dive back into a piece, remind myself where the plot was at and then move forward. It was like having to warm back up and then dive into the writing from scratch. It was a cold start every time.

So, I knew I had to remedy this situation. Lately, I’ve taken to opening and re-reading the last chapter (or section or paragraph) of my work to see where I’m at on SATURDAY night (or day). That way, I know where I left off when I sit down to write on SUNDAY…On those Saturday nights, I start ruminating on where I’m headed next and what needs to happen next and, more importantly, what has to happen to close off the next chapter or section. Then, I put away the manuscript and forget about it. I let it sink back into the subconscious without fretting about the characters or where they are at or where they will happen. I meet even have a glass of wine or watch a movie. I trust my subconscious to assist with any smoothing out of plot or character that needs to happen the next day.

That way, when I grab that nice, hot cup of Joe the next afternoon and sit down to write, I have a good idea of where the action is and again, most importantly, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. It’s what I call “The Refresher.”

It’s just another little tweak, another little tool, I have added to my writing belt recently. And, so far, it’s passing the only true test of all new writing tools: it’s keep me writing and keeping my word count heading in the right direction (up).

I hope you other Day-Job Writers out there find this little tip useful. If you have any tips or tools you use to become more productive, I’d love to hear about them in the Comments section!

Until next time.

Keep reading, Keep writing,

Darius