The Journal, Thursday, May 17

Hey Folks,

Topic: How Do You Know You Won’t Like It If You Don’t Try It?

Parents? Sound familiar?

Well, we’re in the same boat here.

I received a very congenial email from a friend and one time editing client that contained a link to an article titled “I Copied the Routines of Famous Writers and It Sucked.”

As it turned out, the article was more humorous than serious. I’ve included the link (last) in “Of Interest” below. And just so you know, the author of the article is not a novelist. He’s a columnist and/or contributor to several online magazines.

But just so you know, I did read the article. It was funny. And I learned that my own typical routine is similar to that of Honoré de Balzac, who allegedly “was a grade-A weirdo. He would go to bed around 6 PM, ‘like the chickens,’ and awake at 1 in the morning to start writing.”

Oh. Well. Uh. I don’t think that makes him a weirdo, does it? I think it makes him a guy who takes his sleep at a different time than the author does.

Anyway, I’m firm enough in what I know to be true that I’m not frightened of opposing viewpoints. But the primary thesis of the guy’s article stopped me cold.

I discerned his thesis from a statement in the third paragraph of the article itself: “Writing is not an autonomic function of the subconscious brain. When the time comes to put words on the page, it is work.”

Uh, no.

Folks, “work” is something that causes us, pretty much constantly, to rethink our priorities. It’s the stuff that causes us to want to better ourselves and find a more enjoyable way to make a living. Hell, avoiding work is WHY I’m a writer, but it doesn’t result from me being a writer.

The point of my friend’s email was to point out to me that every writer is different, and that each writer must find what works best for him or her.

MY INFERRENCE (not necessarily his intention) was that I’m preaching false gospel when I recommend learning to trust your subconscious and write off into the dark. (WITD means writing without an outline or any in-depth, preconceived notion of where the story’s going or what the ending might be.)

But the thing is—and yes, I’m aware this is a news flash—I wasn’t born this way. Seriously. I’m a converted sinner. I used to do all the same old crap most everyone else does. The same old crap that doesn’t work. And like most everyone else, I sold almost nothing.

And even when I DID first read Heinlein’s Rules, and later learned of “Writing Into the Dark,” I was skeptical. Even hyper-skeptical.

But there was only one problem: It Made Sense.

So I decided to settle the matter once and for all. I would try it, that’s all. I would do nothing but write into the dark. I would stifle my conscious mind and give my subconscious free reign, and I would do that for a period of three months. To me, that seemed a valid test.

I started on April 15, 2014. From then through July 15 of 2014, I turned out 19 short stories, two 5-story collections and a 10-story collection. And baby, I was hooked.

Why? Because it worked.

I’d never written better stories and I’d never had so much fun.

After a jag with short stories, I decided in October 2014 to write a novel. But I have to admit I was worried. Would WITD work for that too?

So I gave myself the same challenge. I figured it would take me at least 3 months to even get a good start on a novel anyway, so I settled on a 3-month challenge to write into the dark, this time on a novel.

That was on October 19, 20 or 21, 2014. I finished my first novel on November 11. And by January 21, I’d written THREE novels and a novella, 11 more short stories, and compiled one more 5-story collection.

So writing into the dark (and following Heinlien’s Rules) worked for both short fiction and novels.

Now, the thing is, yes, I learned the technique from someone else, but I didn’t just buy into it. I proved it to myself.

And y’know, looking back, I don’t think Dean cared either way whether I’d buy into WITD. No skin off his nose, am I right?

And that’s how I feel now. I know it works, and I’d love to see other writers find the sheer joy and fun I’ve found. But if they don’t? Meh.

Today, I’m on the verge of completing my 31st novel. I also have 5 novellas and almost 200 short stories. All because I was willing to TRY something and either prove it to myself or not.

As my friend and Dean and I say, All writers are different. That’s just a truism, period.

But among those who will become long-term successful fiction writers, it just means some are slower to catch on to trusting their subsconscious than others are.

And of course, some won’t even try. They’re just too afraid of the unknown. They’ll continue to outline and plot and grind out their 200 or 300 words per hour (or per day) and they’ll tell everyone around them what “drudgery” writing is, what “hard work” it is.

And they’ll be right. For them, it will be drudgery and hard work.

But for my money, they brought it on themselves.


To the Hovel late this morning. I wrote right at 2000 words, then called it a little early so I can get to the copyedit. I also have a few other things to do.

My son and his wife and children is coming down on Friday night. So I’ll write again in the morning, but I’m not sure what I’ll get done on Saturday or Sunday. Don’t be too surprised if the Journal doesn’t publish on those days.

See you soon. ​

Of Interest

DWS must be psychic. In light of what I wrote above (before I visited his website), see “The Reader Perception” at

See more comments on “Dangers of Not Trusting The Creative Voice” at

And see more comments on “Cycling and the Art of One Clean Draft” at

See “I Copied the Routines of Famous Writers and It Sucked” at

Fiction Words: 1998
Nonfiction Words: 950 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 2948

Writing of A Storyteller (novel and short story collection)
Brought forward…………………………………………………………………… 44837

Day 16… 3117 words. Total words to date…… 47954
Day 17… 2680 words. Total words to date…… 50634
Day 18… 1278 words. Total words to date…… 51912
Day 19… 1687 words. Total words to date…… 53599
Day 20… 1792 words. Total words to date…… 55391
Day 21… 1998 words. Total words to date…… 57389

Total fiction words for the month……… 30406
Total fiction words for the year………… 191692
Total nonfiction words for the month… 5840
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 55310
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 246732

Calendar Year 2018 Novels to Date………………………… 3
Calenday Year 2018 Novellas to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2018 Short Stories to Date……… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 30
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 5
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………………… 182

2 thoughts on “The Journal, Thursday, May 17”

  1. Thanks for the link to the routines of famous writers, it was good fun. And it showed perfectly well how NOT to apply the idea of trying something at least once to see whether it suits you.

    Your approach of trying WITD for three months made a lot of sense: you had the time to try it out, to adapt your own routine to it. If it hadn’t suited you after three months, you would have gone back to your old ways of doing things, knowing that it really didn’t suit you.

    But the idea of trying a very different routine every day, while very entertaining in a humorous piece, is not the best way to prove that these routines don’t work at all. Some people say that they’ve tried WITD once and it didn’t work for them, so they’ve never tried again. Makes me shake my head. But then it’s their problem, not mine.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your sensible approach!

    • Thanks, Céline. Our subconscious is telling stories from the time we can talk, long before we even learn there is an alphabet. So we all know the innate ability of the subconscious to make things up on the spot. Only an unreasonable fear keeps us from cultivating that. In any endeavor, there are survivors and there are others. Survivors learn and adapt. Others don’t.

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