How To Write 10,000 Words A Week
January 31, 2020 5:50 PM   Subscribe

In a recent longform piece on Medium, former Deadspin and GQ writer Drew Magary talks about what he enjoys about the act of writing, and how to approach it in a way to keep loving the act. (SLMedium)

Magary focuses on how he approaches the act of writing, both as a creative act and as an act of workmanship, to avoid the pitfall of becoming disillusioned with the act.
posted by NoxAeternum (18 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
I’m getting a 404 error when I try to follow the link.

Left to figure out on my own how to get the next 9,988 words done.
posted by Silvery Fish at 5:57 PM on January 31

[Fixed link, I think]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 6:14 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]

This is great. My version of his constant notebook stream is a bit less intense (I do not write for a living) but works well: I use the Apple Notes app with iCloud sync so that I can jot stuff down on my phone wherever I happen to be and see it pop up on my laptop where I can reshape it. Also works well for recording the state of brainstorming whiteboards.
posted by migurski at 6:23 PM on January 31

I really appreciate this. It's what I need to hear right now. His advice about notes is particularly good; I've done well since I started jotting things down. But struggling with writing, even--especially--when you love it, is a real problem for real writers.

Having a problem with writer's block is a little like having a problem with weight. Some writers, particularly journalists, have never had a problem with it, and they scoff at the people who do; they refuse to believe it's a real problem. Others, who only have occasional issues, offer well-meaning advice for regimens that don't take. Some, ominously, suggest that you might as well give up if you don't have the discipline for them.

Writer's block, so far as it has been explained, is best explained as a problem of perfectionism. The writer knows that the words in their head aren't enough to fix the enormous problems that they are facing--this plot, this deadline, this hole in their life, whatever it might be. They don't want to waste time writing the wrong words, so they sit there searching for the right ones until their hair falls out. The best way to avoid this problem is to knock it down into small, manageable chunks, but this in itself can be a time-consuming puzzle.

In conclusion: I am very mad at my novel and me, thank you for listening.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:32 PM on January 31 [32 favorites]

If you look over here, through the small door under the stairs, behind the deckchairs you thought you'd lost, you will find the RPG industry, where ten cents a word is considered a princely rate merited by only a few top freelancers. Yet, like the bottom of the ocean, it somehow sustains life. Fifteen years ago a friend was contracted by one of these companies to produce 2500-3000 words a day, every day, of a quality that could be poured into an InDesign template and published with as little editing as possible. I told him he'd burn out in less than two years. He's still at it. I have no idea how.
posted by Hogshead at 6:39 PM on January 31 [5 favorites]

I have tried to start incorporating writing as part of my day for the last month - as proto-letters.

I realised that two of my most productive periods were, when I was regularly sending letters. I would typically start a letter, "My assignment/report/presentation is due, and ..." proceed to an analysis which allowed me to clarify the issues and their resolution - and give me the perspective that I needed

Confession - Metafilter has allowed me to do much the same

My writings have not been letters - they are unaddressed, and not addressed to the archive of my future self - so proto-letters.

Essays are too grand a name for them too - but the process of thinking and then writing about the thinking - when done by pen on paper - for me to review later and edit/amend/burn - it allows me to recalibrate how I think, what needs to go out into the world, and what I need to scrutinise more closely as it is not coherent

I remind myself of Emily Dickson - writing on the backs of envelopes - and revel in the leftover pages of notebooks and diaries
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 12:05 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]

Writing 10,000 words a week isn’t the issue - making them worth reading, that’s the trick.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:00 AM on February 1 [5 favorites]

I’ve found that (MeFi’s own) Tim Clare has been a great mentor for sustainable, enjoyable writing practices via his podcasts, especially the Couch to 80k boot camp from a few years ago. He has just started a new 100 day guided writing program too - hooray!
posted by archy at 1:40 AM on February 1 [7 favorites]

Writing is easy. Editing is hard.
posted by BWA at 5:31 AM on February 1

Seriously. I did my first Zine Quest project last year and wildly underestimated the time it would take to edit the zine. Writing about UFOs invading fantasy settings is easy and fun, but polishing and separating the wheat from the chaff is tedious. I'm about to kick off on Issue 2 and my production schedule has been adjusted to reflect reality.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:48 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]

I love reading how other writers do their thing because it reminds me how everyone's process is highly idiosyncratic. Mine own process has very little to do with Mr. Magary's at all.
posted by jscalzi at 8:08 AM on February 1 [12 favorites]

Writing without editing as one goes is super hard. I thought as soon as I could edit, I'd be fine. I've always enjoyed editing! But now that my novel draft is done I am just paralyzed. I'm used to editing on the sentence and paragraph level, not the novel level--this is the first longform piece I've ever completed--and all I can see are the huge changes I need to make in the overarching story and character arcs. I feel like it'd be easier to bin the whole thing. Fortunately, my wife won't let me do this.
posted by the liquid oxygen at 9:32 AM on February 1

Having an external deadline works well for me. I have to do a 500 word article for the newspaper each week and I have managed to do it for six or seven years now.
posted by snofoam at 9:41 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]

Nah, editing is easy for me. I love it, I love polishing what I have and adding and clarifying and making it better and marveling at it like a cartoon watercolor artist after putting a little touch on the canvas. Editing feeds my ego like nothing else. So very gratifying. (And I do edit as I go along, IDK how people resist! But thankfully my editing-as-I-go instinct extends only to the most recent paragraph. The earlier stuff I've written falls out of my head as soon as it's out. Thanks, ADHD!)

But getting over the perfectionist screaming inside my head and actually writing ... now THAT is hard. The only hack I've found that works is to write like I'm explaining something to someone - a letter or a proto-letter, that was on-point, it totally works. It's like I'm tricking my brain into thinking I'm teaching, not creating. The pressure drops. Perfection is no longer necessary.
posted by MiraK at 11:01 AM on February 1 [3 favorites]

When I get blocked, I immediately do a 7 — meaning I write 7 possibilities for whatever I’m stuck on. I always write 7, even if I love the first or fifth one, and I always choose one. I never say “ok, 7 more.” Almost always I have something I can make work. For me, writing is much more about making ideas work than it is about having the perfect idea in the first place.
posted by argybarg at 5:30 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]

I'm with you, MiraK. Love to edit, love to muck about with what I've got. But getting it in the first place? Yeesh. That space between imagining and tinkering will be the death of me.
posted by wellifyouinsist at 7:42 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]

Writing is easy. Editing is hard.
I'm exactly the opposite. Getting that first draft on the page is hell for me, every single time, no matter how clearly mapped out a piece is, in my head or otherwise. Once that first draft is down it's easy. It's still work, but it sails through with clarity and purpose in a way the first draft never does for me. I'm only a part-time writer, though... and a full-time editor.
posted by Fish Sauce at 9:49 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]

I loathe editing my own work, but unfortunately don't write first drafts with any kind of economy that might mitigate the need for editing. I mostly love editing other people's work. Not entirely sure what that says about me...
posted by hearthpig at 7:22 AM on February 3

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