Just Write the Damn Thing #3

There’s another reason why plunging in can help us more than outlining or doing a treatment or engaging in some other prep action.

Happy surprises.

I’m sure you’ve found, like me, that sometimes great stuff pops out in the middle (and particularly at the very end) of a scene, when we actually write it.

Stuff that never would have materialized if we were just blocking out the scene in outline or rough draft form.

There’s a big difference between the first hour of work and the third hour.

My theory is that we get tired by Hour Three. The goddess likes that. Our ego starts to poop out. Doors open in our mind. 

The Muse likes to slip through those doors.

But we don’t get to that place ten minutes or a hundred minutes after we dive into the pool. It takes a bunch of laps back and forth before the left brain wears out and the right brain kicks in.

Just write the damn thing!

Kristof Milak of Hungary in the 200-meter butterfly at the 2020 Summer Olympics

DO THE WORK

Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

do the work book banner 1

THE AUTHENTIC SWING

A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.

The-Authentic-Swing

NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR SH*T

Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careersÔÇöadvertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.

noboybookcover

TURNING PRO

Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"

Turning-Pro

37 Comments

  1. Tolis on May 1, 2024 at 1:44 am

    Thank you so much dear Steve.

    You must be so right. It’s a so hard obstacle in front of me, it stands in my way in front of the Gates of Lions. Beyond them lies the valley of Greatness. If you could see that place in the ruins of the Mycaenaen palace! Gods, it’s perfevt.

    For some strange reason, I feel that I had to do all those preps or whatever they’re called. The energies from what I did trying to prep to write, parallels to my very soul. And I did a lot.

    BUT but but but

    The Balance. The Balance.

    • Tolis on May 1, 2024 at 3:22 am

      The surprises that come through the hours clicked on me.

  2. Mark Dickson on May 1, 2024 at 1:47 am

    I agree completely, Steve. It happened to me just two days ago.thanks for the reinforcement!

  3. Peter Brockwell on May 1, 2024 at 2:31 am

    The one hour vs three hour point, that’s good. Yes, I know when I’m merely working at a subsistence level, keeping the project on life support or just barely creeping forward, and should be putting in more time. Like doing a workout. To be honest I’ve always assumed that the best ideas would arrive early, while I’m still fresh. But Steve is right on this, no doubt about it.

    I outline, but I have realised that there’s no hard difference between pantsing and outlining, because when I’m writing my outline I’m basically pantsing the outline. And I’m available to the arrival of inspiration during that process, and ideas do indeed come to me. Expanding the outline is just writing/pantsing, but doing in a kind of shorthand.

    Nice post, thanks boss.
    Peter

  4. Jackie on May 1, 2024 at 3:04 am

    Thanks Steve. I think today’s post solved a problem. I’ve been stuck on the last two chapters. It feels like a gut punch to be so close and stuck. I thought I had the end figured. Now, what if I just go with it and read through and be happily surprised? Could be, could be. Cool.

  5. Janine on May 1, 2024 at 3:09 am

    True! It takes a while to get into the flow, and then you start getting surprised by what comes out.
    I absolutely need to plan, but as I loosen up later in the writing time, that’s where the remarkable stuff happens.
    Thanks, Steve, as always.

    • Karin on May 1, 2024 at 3:10 am

      Thank you for the reminder ­čĺŤ

  6. Karin on May 1, 2024 at 3:10 am

    Thank you for the reminder ­čĺŤ

  7. Pierre Stanley Baptiste on May 1, 2024 at 3:13 am

    Thank you, Steve. I never thought of it that way, but I have experienced that magic when I am on deadline. My mind is telling me “you are tired”, then I power through. To be my surprise, completely unexpected ideas and newfound flow emerge.

  8. Lee Bodkin on May 1, 2024 at 3:16 am

    Love this! Go the distance, fight resistance.

    • Vinny Auriemma on May 2, 2024 at 5:06 am

      IÔÇÖve have a great family story to pass on
      Three stages
      Bronx tale. Saving private ryan. My three sons
      20myrs of research taped interview with people who are now gone
      Pictures. Hand written letters from Stalg 12a
      And thatÔÇÖs was his easy challenge

      • Vinny Auriemma on May 3, 2024 at 8:19 am

        IÔÇÖm stuck

  9. Doc Fenton on May 1, 2024 at 3:43 am

    Amen

  10. Charlie Ernst on May 1, 2024 at 3:44 am

    YES!!!

  11. Valerie on May 1, 2024 at 4:18 am

    Thank you for writing this. Oh how I wish I could write for three hours a day! That would be lovely. Right now, if I am lucky, I get about 45min. I so wish I could turn my day job into the job a secretly dream of having. Still I fight resistance and keep plugging my 45 min a day away.

  12. Sue on May 1, 2024 at 4:32 am

    The timing of this message is quite synchronistic. Thank you, Steve.

  13. Kate Stanton on May 1, 2024 at 5:25 am

    I like this thought of exhausting the ego into giving up. I want it to DIE!

    Action. Take action!

  14. Mike Henderson on May 1, 2024 at 5:53 am

    Being a very visual guy,I have thought about getting a poster size (perhaps smaller)pencil sketch drawn of some monster like creature standing there with his hand holding a door closed with a grin on his face showing defiance..a word below the monster…RESISTANCE CALLING
    …and in the bottom quarter of the page would be a tall guy leaning over his kitchen sink throwing up….one of his hands steadying himself on the sink and the other flipping the bird..The words below the agonizing procrastinating person would be JUST WRITE IT !!!…….you will remember the day..Semper Fi…think I will get a small Marine Corps logo next to the sink. !! LT

  15. Rick Surkamer on May 1, 2024 at 6:00 am

    A trap i have fallen into of late, even when I am in the cockpit and ready to fly:

    Re reading and editing most or all that has come before. Currently on my 3rd time. I am thinking I will find inspiration by experiencing what I began months ago. Making sure I have something. This is new for me, as my early experience has been to review my notes I leave at the end of my last paragraph, and just jump back in. I feel like I’m doing work, but we both know that’s BS.

  16. Scott Mitchell on May 1, 2024 at 6:51 am

    Thought-provoking essay. Up to now, I have been leery of chasing at-the-keyboard inspiration, for fear of getting lost down the rabbit-hole. Stick to the program (outline), I would tell myself. But with Steven’s observations, that the Muse is nudging the writer down the path she knows is right, maybe the answer is at the other end of that rabbit-hole., and getting to Part IV, Section B, and line (d)(4) of your outline is just the slog you need to make to be ready for that whispered guidance, Her lips to your ear.

  17. Brian Nelson on May 1, 2024 at 7:55 am

    Johan Lehrer wrote a book called “Imagine”. It was about creativity, in the same vein as many of the pop-psychology books from 2005-2015, I’ll call them ‘Gladwell-ian’. It was fascinating–but apparently he plagiarized something about Bob Dylan and the entire book was pulled.

    I had purchased it on Audible, and Shazam, it no longer exists. (I’ll never buy an electric car from that lesson…)

    BUT–he had a point about creativity that is EXACTLY what Steve writes about hour one vs hour three…and it explains why we get ideas in the shower or other places of relaxation.

    I’m probably going to mistake some of the brain waves–but here it goes. Creativity comes from a small cluster of neurons, and they generally happen in a ‘gamma wave’ cycle. What Lehrer wrote was that one had to exhaust the rational brain–beta waves for example–our normal problem solving, left brain, algorithmic approach to solving a problem–then, once all of those neurons have reached ‘muscle failure’ (mixing metaphors a bit here)–then the brain resorts to gamma wave.

    Keto for the brain…once all the glucose is gone, ketones become the fuel.

    In 2010 I visited ‘Center for Advanced Study of Language’ (CASL) an NSA and U of Maryland think tank. Their job was ‘bigger, faster, stronger’ for foreign language acquisition/proficiency for the Intelligence Community. We had developed a web-based training program called “LingFit”–a mash up of CrossFit training principles & language training.

    Anyway–it was like the San Fransisco Expolatorium for language geeks like me. They had this one dude, Piotr (giant of a man, literally—suffered the same condition as Andre the Giant) was a neuroscientist. They put brain caps on students and had them do all sorts of language stuff. You could see the brain activity on a computer screen.

    So, I’m all geeking out, “Piotr! This is cool! What does an idea look like?”

    Piotr, “You mean an ‘AHA’ kind of idea?”

    Me: “yeah man, like the puzzle pieces finally just fit together.”

    Piotr, “They all look the same.”

    They all look the same. Fascinating. There is no way there but through. Gotta reach muscle failure before the doors open.
    bsn

    • Nom de Plume on May 2, 2024 at 4:47 pm

      Dude! Elaborate please. Is he saying “all great ideas look like other great ideas”, or “a great idea looks like the same kind of neuron-firing as any deep thinking”?

      I do like this idea of wearing out the right brain to left the creativity shine forth. You only see the stars once the sun goes down and all that. But it seems different than say Baumeister in “Willpower”. For him if the brain depletes its glucose on trivial decisions it then cannot focus on big ones. But here… well here his “brain” is strictly the rational half, and exhausting it is what permits the creative half to take over. Or the Muse — which would then be external to the glucose-depleted brain, so Baumeister is correct.

      Sensei Steve, if you take requests, can you please talk more about the Muse and how ideas may be external to us, coming from the ether, and even how Resistance causing external things like distracting job offers? The implications of that still amaze me.

      Cheers!

      Nom

      • Nom de Plume on May 2, 2024 at 4:50 pm

        Adding to my own comment, I think we all know the thing about solving tough problems: reesearch everything you can, get as many facts and possible solutions as possible into your brain, and then go work out and let your subconscious mull all that over, and then the answer pops into your head in the shower. Which is related, but not quite the same as this three-hour-effort opening the door.

        Nom

  18. Ken Williams on May 1, 2024 at 8:07 am

    I needed to “hear” this today! Thank you Steve!

  19. Sam Luna on May 1, 2024 at 8:13 am

    I agree with this to a point. My 2nd book largely takes place in the Ravensbruck concentration camp for women in 1945, and there was no way I was gonna wing that one. I had to read everything about that place I could get my hands on for quite some time before I felt competent to plunge into the first draft. But yeah, there’s absolutely a point where research can morph into Resistance, like anything else.

  20. Kathy on May 1, 2024 at 8:21 am

    I didnÔÇÖt receive this in my emails. ??
    Bummer.
    Last week I couldnÔÇÖt make a comment.. ??
    Bummer.
    I look forward to receiving them. It is the only blog I truly read and savor. . I always gain from your wisdom and creative advice. .
    I look for them early Wednesday mornings.
    None now. ??

    ­čŹâ­ččŹâ

    • Kathy on May 1, 2024 at 8:27 am

      So, I signed up again.

  21. Anonymous on May 1, 2024 at 8:50 am

    Just do it !!
    Thank you !!!
    I want my family to know
    ÔÇťA GI named Jimmy my hero my dad

  22. Anonymous on May 1, 2024 at 10:05 am

    Bless you, Steve, for your generosity toward “the rest of us!” And for your bluntly worded kick in the pants which is sometimes what I need most.
    Mary in Northern VA

  23. Doug Hibbard on May 1, 2024 at 12:24 pm

    After failing, utterly, to get good progress made on my dissertation yesterday, I so feel this. I’m not doing the work. I’m trying to only let perfection come out instead of just writing and getting it done.

    Probably need to print the title and tape it to the laptop.

  24. Doug Setter on May 1, 2024 at 4:33 pm

    Just do it. It is never perfect. Sometimes failing. Sometimes total junk. But, you still show up to do it. (Even when the girlfriend is nagging or the phone keeps ringing.) Just do it.

  25. uno online on May 1, 2024 at 11:57 pm

    Thank you for being a lighthouse for lost souls. Your writing is really an inspiration!

  26. Phil on May 5, 2024 at 5:37 pm

    You’ve hit another home run.
    Thank you for your ongoing encouragement and insight.

  27. samantha on May 6, 2024 at 8:19 pm

    This concept of happy surprises emerging from the exhaustion of Hour Three is interesting. However, it’s more about quieting the overly Wordle Unlimited analytical mind than pure tiredness.

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  30. agar io on May 22, 2024 at 2:46 am

    sometimes, the best approach is to simply start writing and see where it takes you.

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