Helping A Norwescon Writer

Once you look at the syntax of: WHAT, WHY, HOW and start applying it to your actions, there is a fascinating bonus: you start understanding other people better.  For instance, two years ago at Norwescon I talked to a gentleman who has been a member of multiple writing groups, admires writers, has tried to write in the past, but no longer does.   He looks wistful when others speak of their projects, but will mumble about responsibilities and reality as his reasons for not writing.


I asked him why he doesn’t, and he talked about caring for an aging parent, and work.  He is tired a lot of the time.   There is just no time.


So I used the “a sentence a day” notion.   What is the reason he cannot do a sentence a day?   There was none.    Then, assuming that

  1. He wants to write, and has internal permission to do it
  2. He believes the “sentence a day” approach is efficient and effective


He has no logical reason not to. What remains is EMOTION.


Remember: once you accept that you are empowered by knowing WHAT you want and WHY you want it, excuses go out the window. You don’t need excuses. You have REASONS.  What was happening had to involve the following


  1. He didn’t know what he wanted.  (he did)
  2. He didn’t believe he could do it. (lack of faith)
  3. He don’t believe he SHOULD do it (pursuit of arts is childish)


(#2 and #3 combined mean: “more pain than pleasure is associated with the pursuit of this goal”)


  1. He didn’t have enough POSITIVE motivations to outweigh the NEGATIVE motivations.   (Note: a person can have a ton of negatives, but 1.1 tons of positive.  This will result in forward motion, but also pain, like driving with the parking brake on.  Smell that burning rubber!)


So I started talking to him, getting him to believe the “sentence a day” works.  From there, his ACTUAL problem came up.   It was never “time”.  He had time to see movies and attend conventions and watch television and read books.  Get it?


He felt guilty about not providing more for his parent, and associated the pursuit of arts with poverty.   More problematic, he felt that if he admitted how badly he wanted it, he would resent his current situation, leading to anger and guilt at the anger.


What a mess. See the emotional ball of snakes here?   So I gave him a simple assignment: “write and publish one short story. Do that, and you can quit.”


It would take him time to do this, but he had time. The point is that it is a specific result, achievable in a couple of years max, following the “one sentence a day” pattern.


Then…he was guaranteed to blow it. Of course.  I knew he would  look up after a week and realize he hasn’t done his sentences.  Then he had a chance to observe his demons at play: was this just information? (Hmmm…I used X Y and Z to stop myself) or would  he roil in guilt (“I’m bad!  I’m worthless!”) or use it to invalidate the approach (“A sentence a day doesn’t work!” Ummm…no, YOU didn’t work.  That’s like me telling you the Pacific is to the west. You drive five miles, stop, and say “driving west doesn’t work”. )


The wise approach would be to  would observe the behaviors and thoughts and begin to keep track of his  results and actions. The way he motivates or stops himself.     THERE WOULD BE PATTERNS.  Merely bringing them to consciousness triggers change.


Only after he knew WHAT he want, and WHY he  wanted it, did it make sense to ask “how will I do it.”  Otherwise you have a “to do list” of crap that you won’t do anyway, and just use those failures to disempower yourself.


The WHAT: To publish a story.

The WHY: To fulfill a lifetime dream. Self-expression. Curiosity.   Creative living.   Fun.  Making a little money…or maybe a lot, if this works out!   Sharing. Communicating.  Stress relief…on and on. Build a “bundle” of motivations that can withstand the pressure of fear and doubt.


The WHAT?  A sentence a day, 1-4 stories a month, finish and submit, not rewriting except to editorial request, read 10X what you write (a short story a day is great!), and committing to repeat this pattern 100X.


What. Why.  How.


If you have all three you have increased your chances of success a thousand percent.


Oh, yes…I encountered him in Seattle last weekend. He hugged me and told me he’d sold two stories in the last six months, just by forcing himself to write a sentence a day. Of course, once he actually sat down and started writing, once or twice a week it just GUSHED out.  The first ten stories were crap (of course).  But then…

Dude owes me lunch.   Sushi, I think. I love sushi.

I love writers more.


Write with Passion!

Steven Barnes


(p.s.– apply this to yourself, with writing, and you’ll learn how to help anyone, with any behavioral issue.  It really is amazing)

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