Writing is Easy by Eden Mabee

Writers like to share their experiences in catchphrases, little truisms that are as precise as they are obscure. I mean, what are these guys really trying to say?

One of my favorites, partly because it was on the very first “writing t-shirt” my husband bought me, is a quote of Red Smith‘s. I know you’ve seen it before. You know the one “Writing is easy. All you need to do is sit a typewriter and open a vein“?

Sounds painful!

Writing is Easy (courtesy of OriginalKazila on Deviant Art)
Writing is Easy (courtesy of OriginalKazila: Deviant Art)

Well, writing can be painful. And I bet a lot of people see that quote and instantly assume that it’s saying we need to bleed ourselves dry for our craft. Or that only through pain and sacrifice can we give what we must to create great writing…

And sometimes that’s exactly what it means. Writing, like any art, requires us to give of ourselves to make it happen and bring it to the world. We have to work hard sometimes–not that hard work is a bad thing… sometimes the most satisfying thing we can do is feel the strain of our own effort.

So yes, we need to mine ourselves and souls for our craft. Sometimes we just need to scratch the surface, sift the stream of consciousness with a shallow pan, screen the loose soil and detritus away to reveal the rare and precious nuggets. Sometimes we can get lucky and find a lode of gems right near the surface. The stories come easily, the words flow on the page with almost no effort save making certain to get in the chair and “do it”.

Sometimes we want to go deeper though. We have to go deeper, we have to meet the reader at that point where we are all human underneath the guises we wear daily. We go deep into ourselves, cutting to the bones and the words and ideas and emotions… the very essence of ourselves and our humanity becomes the writing. We bleed out and into others through our words.

And that’s why I think Red Smith chose the word ‘vein‘. Not just for the image of a writer bleeding his or her lifeblood onto the page….

A vein–not an artery. I mean, arteries have a lot going for them. They’re filled with fresh fuel-filled blood–new ideas, new energy… While veins are filled with breathless liquid that our bodies have used for all its worth.

Type Away (cred Wiki Commons)

Well, in a sense, the blood in the arteries hasn’t become ours yet. And it if it’s not ours, we’re not giving anything to the reader they can’t get on their own from somewhere else. In the veins though… we’re there. We’ve used that blood, we’ve breathed it, we’ve lived with it, and now we’re sending it along. That venous blood is filled with our experiences, our humanity… our detritus, our strength, our character.

So yeah, sit at that keyboard and open a vein. It may be painful, it may not, but it’ll be you, precious, live-giving and unique.




Eden Mabee

Those (Five) Sentences by Eden Mabee

I want to talk to the people who can’t find time to write. You know who you are. (The rest of you free to read and comment—we’re all in this together–, and you may have suggestions to add that will help.)
First off, let me apologize. I’m not one of those people who doesn’t have time to write. I have the time to write–rather I make time to write. I do have a luxury that some don’t: I don’t have a job or a boss or deadlines to write around. My work involves volunteering (a lot), and I set my own schedule. I also am blessed with an encouraging husband and a son who thinks it’s cool that Mom writes stories.

The only real deterrents to my whipping out page after page daily are the occasional bouts of Writer’s Block (often in the form of Brain Drain or fear) and me.

It’s the second one that causes me the most grief, and I’m betting it’s the same for you.

You see, I know how much you are writing and posting and tweeting about not being able to write. I wastespend a lot of time on Social Media too.

I has a hard time finding time to write recently too. I mean, where are those hours of time we hear about? When do we set up these precious “office hours” that writers are supposed to have to develop their creativity to its fullest?

Maybe they just aren’t there, or we cannot find them without sacrificing all our sleep and destroying our relationships.
That doesn’t mean you can’t find time to write—you can. Here’s what I did. May it help you too.

First, I gave up the myth of uninterrupted creative time. But even then, I still needed a goal to reach toward; I needed something to reach for and measure. Something concrete and yet easy to achieve.

Now if you’ve been around the ROW80 for a while, you are probably familiar with Kait Nolan’s Test Mile. If you are not, take some time to read up on the concept before I share my personal test mile.

You ready now?

It is to write five sentences (I bet you knew that already, didn’t you).

Yep. That’s it. Write Five Sentences, and they can be as short or as long as I want to make them.

There is one other rule. The sentences have to be creative writing. Tweets or Facebook comments don’t count. A new poem? Cool, but it won’t necessarily count unless I want to write poems or the poem somehow fits into my present Work In Progress. I can still write something along the lines of this:

David ate the squash. A bird had pecked one end. He tossed that in the road. He felt exhausted. Nearby a truck chugged past.

It took me less than a minute to scribble out those sentences. Yes, they need some tweaking, but there is a definite sense of a scene here. I see a vagrant who’d picked up a zucchini from the end of a garden, then finding that it probably had been tossed off because some animal had nibbled at it. He’s hungry and eats the squash anyway, tossing off the bad part. He’s tired of wandering. The truck matters to him…

Why? I haven’t written that yet.

When a scene comes easily like this, I might keep writing if I have time. That is the main point of a test mile—to get you started. But it also serves the second purpose of getting something written no matter how busy we are.

So one minute, maybe two… at most five. Five sentences, five minutes, maybe two less tweets or one last skim of your NewsFeed. We all have time somewhere in our day to use for writing. It may not be five minutes at once, but there is time. A sentence written while standing in line at the bank is still a sentence written. Add the next one, spoken into a phone’s speech-to-text app while driving or doing those thirty minutes on the treadmill (and maybe two or three more!) and you’re almost there. Another line, this time at the grocery store? Another sentence…

See how easy it is? If you promise yourself to write sentence as soon as you wake up and one more before you turn the light off at night, then you will be done, if you want to be.

As for myself, I actually don’t own a smart phone. If I’m not glued to my computer, I write on paper. I make sure I always have some kind of little notepad to scribble in (and often much bigger notebooks too, just in case I discover one of those mythic hours of creative bliss).

And for those who may be wondering,… no, things didn’t start out smoothly . I didn’t get up one morning and suddenly every day I was getting those sentences written. I had a day or two where I fell asleep in the middle of the third sentence; I had a few days I missed completely, and despite the best intentions, I didn’t make those missed sentences up the next day either.

I’ve planned poorly. As reigning Queen of Mislaid Plans and Sub-Empress of Disorder, I have scrambled to get those sentences in before bed. I’ve spent several nights recently writing my five sentences on the bathroom floor where I could make sure the light didn’t wake up my husband or son.

I still wrote them. I wrote a full page the other night. It took me ten minutes after brushing my teeth. I started while I brushed…using my left hand for some mirror writing just to get an idea I kept forgetting all day down before I slept and forgot it permanently.

They say it takes 30 days to build a habit. I’m not so sure of that. I still have to be prompted by seeing my fellow writers posting about their wordcounts or the fact that I can’t walk through my house without seeing an open notebook nearby begging for some word love and pen scritches.

Five sentences… If you can’t do this, then perhaps you might not be as serious about writing as you say (and that really is okay too). However, Writers write as fellow ROWer and sponsor Alberta wrote last round. Being someone who writes part of who and what we are, and we will always find a way to write. There may be ebbs and flows to our productivity; after I’d broken my wrist in December, I didn’t write–I mean, I did write; I wrote notes and blogposts, but nothing I considered creative. But Writers Write, and I made a way.

So start small. You won’t always manage these sentences daily. Try treating your writing like a job in that sense and give yourself a (scheduled) day off here and there. Use a five day work week with your two days off spread out (say Tuesday’s and Friday’s off or something like that). It’s easy to get in the habit of not writing when you’re already fighting yourself for control over your dream. Don’t let yourself down… write at least every other day. And allow yourself to have a few bad days (forgiveness is important, as important as self-discipline).

If you can’t do that; if you can’t find five minutes for something you say you want to do, then you need to find out why. That’ll have to be the topic of another post however. For now, just write those five sentences.


Eden Mabee

The Importance of Taking Time NOT To Write by Eden Mabee

We writers almost never want to think about… those times we can’t write. As far as I know, there is really only one real cure for Writer’s Block. Writing…

Yes, it’s good to have a fertile list of inspirations to draw from; reading is an excellent source of ideas (as well as a great way to learn how other people have put these elusive things we call words into forms and patterns that create pictures in our mind’s eyes). May writers swear by brainstorming; it’s great to get involved in writing challenges and try prompts that other people have tried and found helpful. Pictures and movies, hanging out with friends… all of these help build a fertile mental soil for the growth of stories.

There’s one more thing, and this is vital.

Any farmer or gardener can tell you… It’s all well and good to have excellent fertilizers. And if you plant the right seeds there’s always going to be a harvest of some kind. But you need to maintain that soil: You need to water it; you need to plow it, hoe out weeds, and be able to gather in that raw produce to share at the market. This takes effort. This takes work, and you need to be fit to do it.

You need to hone your Writer’s Body.

You need to get away from the keyboard and the pens and the books. You need to give those young seedlings of ideas some oxygen and some refreshing showers…

Yeah, I’m talking about exercise.

You see, you as the Writer are the most important part of your writing career. YOU. You need to take care of yourself; you need to exercise and eat healthy food, not just food for the brain and soul, but food for the machine that holds the pen, the great device that pushes those buttons for you and dictates into the the microphone.

This is my second run as a sponsor for the ROW80, but even when I wasn’t sponsoring, I visited other ROWers. One thing I saw far too often are posts by people who are blocked and tired or worn out (and thus doubting themselves). I’ve made more than my fair share of these posts. It’s disheartening. But I think I’ve found the answer… It’s getting away from writing. Just a bit, just a few minutes.

Taking a break and standing up or stretching gets things circulating again. There’s something that happens in our bodies when we sit for more than 20 minutes. Triglycerides build up, our oxygen demands go down… we lower our metabolism; we start conserving instead of expending. (Read that part about how we get sleepy? Being sleepy is no way to work well. So stand up and grab yourself a cuppa–water will work as well as coffee; it’s the standing that matters.)

Considering that writing is an active act, an act of giving our thoughts and words to the world, <emwhy are we doing it in a state of conserving resources? Get up, stand at your desk for a few minutes, do a few toe touches, a stretch or two… renew the blood flow; start breathing deeply again.

And then write. You’ll be glad you did.

(For those ROWers on Facebook, you might want to join in our ROW80 Fitness group where we inspire each other in maintaining our Writer’s Bodies. Or if you’d rather avoid Facebook–not necessarily a bad idea given how fast time seems to fly there–maybe you could add a fitness goal to your ROW80 goals. Make that boy work for you. Believe it or not, it will give you more writing time, not less.)


Eden Mabee

The Solitary Writer by Eden Mabee

With apologies to Kristen Lamb, I have some bad news for you.  You are alone.

Like all of us here in ROW80, you chose to become a writer.  Now you must live up to that decision.  You have to accept that no one else can go on this journey in your place.  No one else can take your risks for you.  You have to put yourself out there.  You have to put your words and your thoughts out for the world to see.

You have to write.

I’m sorry to be so blunt about it, but now that you’ve chosen to be a writer, you have to settle down and you have to write.  Some call this “Bottom in Chair, Fingers on Keyboard”, and you should wake up every morning with this as your mantra.  You want to write (you must, you’ve chosen to join a writing challenge), so it makes sense that you should write.

But what about my fellow ROWers, you ask?  Well, if you want to know a dirty little secret, they’re in the same boat as you.  As wonderful and supportive as your fellow ROWers will be, they can’t do this for you.  We cannot do this for you.  We cannot write your words.  We can write our own, but not yours.  You have to do that.

We’ll cheer you on.  We’ll offer our shoulders when things get difficult.  But we can’t give life to your words.  We can do a lot of things for you: share ideas for stories, do beta readings, recommend agents and publisher and pass along the latest market news.  We can even perhaps meet you when you come to town and laugh over cakes and coffees. We can do so much for you.

But we can’t put those words into a permanent form.  We can’t given a concrete image to your thoughts.

We cannot write for you.

But the good news is, you can!  You can write those ideas, the way you puzzled over the waiter’s expression when you ordered the red snapper, the way the sky turned a brilliant crimson and slate-gray this evening so intense you knew a storm was coming in your main character’s world.  You can do it, one word at a time.

And you know what else?

You are not alone.  We’re here.  We’re doing it with you.  Each of us, putting down our words one at a time, one after another after another after…

We’re all solitary writers… in this together.  And we are not alone.


Eden Mabee