How to Write Like an Adult

I used to spend a lot of time fretting about how to write. I read blogs and books by great writers. I studied the craft and thought about different processes a lot. I evaluated every different brainstorming tool, word processor, pen, and notebook I could buy, but I didn’t start really writing until I discovered the real secret. How do you write? Keep the cursor moving to the right. That’s it. Writing isn’t thinking about writing. Writing isn’t brainstorming or outlining what you could be writing. Writing is simply moving the cursor to right over and over again.

In order to fully grasp this lesson (in the middle of a book), I actually made a list for myself of all the things that writing is not so I would spend less time on them:

  • Brainstorming and outlining (important, but you still need to produce real words on a page)
  • Thinking about writing
  • Tweaking writing software
  • Reading about other people’s writing processes
  • Finding the right pen and notebook combination
  • Checking email

Once I eliminated these from my list of “important tasks when writing a book” my life was much simpler. I didn’t need to study, process, tweak, and fret as much as I just needed to put words onto my screen. So, here is my gift to you:

How to write like an adult and actually produce something (in 4 easy steps)

  1. Start typing. Move the cursor to the right.
  2. If you lack motivation, have accountability. I write because I’m supposed to. Sometimes I write because I’m getting paid, and sometimes I write because I want people to read it; either way I have an obligation to finish. If you don’t have real accountability like an editor or a client, you just need to trick yourself. Tell your best friend that you’re supposed to write one blog a week; if you miss a week, they get to change the password on your Netflix account or confiscate your Moleskine collection.
  3. Move the cursor to the right by any means necessary. If you have to b.s. your way through 1500 words while chained to your desk listening to an endless stream of Sigur Ros to give yourself one good sentence, that’s what you need to do for right now. One day, genius words will flow like you’re Faulkner on a weekend bender. Until then, just write something.
  4. Now that you’re moving the cursor to the right, you can play with your system a little bit. You need to sync Scrivener with Dropbox? Take ten minutes to set that up. You find yourself making a french press in the mornings before you write? Fine; that’s now part of your process. Do whatever little things it takes to make more usable words appear on your screen, but don’t do anything more than that. If you’re happy with your Pilot G-2 pen, stop reading reviews of other pens right now (unless it’s written by Michael Lopp).

Okay, that’s really enough reading about writing for one day. Stop reading the same articles by would-be writers like me, and go write something. If you don’t, I’ll change your Netflix password, steal your notebooks, and replace your favorite pens with Bic Stics. Seriously.