How to Write | Step 1: Sit Down

First, you sit down.

A significant percentage of the writer’s craft is butt-in-chair. 

Writers sit. Writers write. I don’t do laundry when I write. I don’t garden. I don’t bake pies. I often think about the undone laundry. From my desk I gaze out at my wild mess of an untended garden and think about pulling a few weeds. Sometimes, when I am sitting, I think about baking pies.

I think about every reason in the world that I don’t have time, energy or skill. I think have nothing to say. I think I have much to say and no words to say it. But for a few minutes everyday, I do nothing but sit. During that time, I allow myself to do nothing other than write. 

The mural I face when I sit down to write for ten minutes every morning.

The mural I face when I sit down to write for ten minutes every morning.

Sometimes I think about Ludwig van Beethoven. “Beethoven,” said Beethoven “can write music, thank god, but he can do nothing else.”  

Usually, words dance across the page. Sometimes they don’t. It doesn’t matter. I’ve practiced doing nothing but writing, sitting. I’ve subdued the urge to re-decorate, do the dishes, walk the dog, take a hike, hit a few tennis balls, invent a new project, polish the silver, chase the next shiny thing. 

At some point, doing nothing but writing becomes wanting to do nothing but write. 

So, first, you sit down. 

Sit like you mean it. You must mean it.  

Sit with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Imagine your feet taking root and sinking into the ground, like the roots of a tree. Imagine your legs sprouting from those roots, twining together to create a sturdy trunk. Imagine your shoulders and arms as limbs, your head as a leafy halo. 

You are a tree. Your only job is to be a tree. Your branches sway, but you do not move.  Trees stay. 

The roots of the tree burrow deeper and deeper, sucking up hidden water. So do you. You plant yourself. You inhale and exhale, deeply and slowly. With each breath, you dig deeper into the earth of yourself. There is no place else you need to be. 

You are a tree. The blank screen or the untouched page is an empty sky waiting for your story. Sometimes you write slowly, as slowly as the edges of leaves press, wider and higher against the summer horizon. Other times, you write like a rogue waterfall whose torrent is refracted like tiny prisms against the sky. 

You will write if you sit and do nothing else. Don’t check your mail. Turn off your phone. Close the door. Set a timer. Plant yourself in your chair and write. 

If you can’t write, if fear causes you to freeze, well, trees freeze but they remain trees. They aspire to be nothing other. They yearn to be no place else. They do not scribble lists of things to do. They do not scare themselves sapless worrying about the progress of the rings that mark their years. They do nothing but be trees. 

If malicious monkeys chatter in your brain and that stops your fingers, record what they say. 

Just write. Allow yourself to do nothing but write.

Some writers find our daily prompts, The 10 Minute Egg, helpful in developing a small, but mighty writing practice. These prompts are posted every morning on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

BlogMolly O'Neill