Monday, January 7, 2013

Writerly Habit #1: Know The Task When You Sit Down To Write

         Writer Don Murray was an important mentor of mine; I suspect I’ll mention him a lot in this blog. Don lived only a few miles from my house here in New Hampshire, and I was lucky enough to call him friend. Not only was he a great guy with a wicked sense of humor, he was as a famous writer, as well. In his books and during our conversations over lunch, Don shared with me many important suggestions about writing, practical advice I still use today. Today I’ll share the first bit of Murray wisdom. 
         KNOW THE TASK BEFORE YOU SIT DOWN AT THE DESK. Don pointed out that when you first sit down to write you can waste a lot of time, thinking, trying to remember, shuffling papers, searching for the right manuscript page or file on your computer, etc. It saves an enormous amount of time if you know what you want to do before you sit down to write. 
         Take me. During the past few weeks I’ve been rereading and revising a new middle grade novel I’m working on. (It’s titled Step Up To The Plate.) So far I have worked through page 103, so this morning I know I can start with chapter 15, “Hospital Party” on page 104. Since I already know what I need to do, I don't have to waste time fiddling and diddling at my desk, so this morning I should be able to make real progress revising my manuscript. 


  1. Great advice! I need to do this for not just writing, but probably every other task throughout me day :)

  2. I'm about to go to my hour of writing. I tend to be a fiddler, so this is terrific advice. I'll come up with a goal before I sit down.

    By the way, when you go into your writing session with a specific goal in mind, do you ever find that a different idea overtakes you? If so, do you go with it?

  3. Good question, Snow White! I've thought about that a lot. Yes, I do believe it's important to let your material "talk" to you. I think there's a creative tension between following your plan and being responsive to new ideas that emerge organically from the work.

  4. When I finish the writing mini-lesson with my students, I always ask them - "What are you going to do as a writer today?" They must leave the classroom carpet with a plan in mind. This is great advice!

  5. I am so happy you are blogging! I still remember meeting you when you came to Dublin for the Literacy Connection. My own children still have your autographed copies of Harvest Moon and Twilight Comes Twice that you graciously signed that day. Your blog posts have inspired me to get back to my writing life...and inspired this post...

    Keep the posts coming! :)