Overcoming Drunken Monkeys & Writing Tips

by Megan Slick October 28th, 2009 

How to have your content ready when your boss asks for it.

You waited and waited and now you have your keyword research. An exciting moment, until you realize you have to do something with it. Thousands of words staring at you from their excel spread sheet spells writer's block and drunken monkeys.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is a great book. It is about writing fiction but it has great points on general writing. The title comes from a clever story of Anne's father giving her brother advise about a report on birds he is petrified to begin. Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird. the father says.

This may be ridiculously simple advise. But I tell you, it is easy to forget when you are faced with a writing project. Some of you never thought you would be writing but here you are with keyword research on your desk. How do you overcome drunken monkeys? You start writing. Anne explains it so well:

You sit down, I say. You try to sit down at approximately the same time every day. This is how you train your unconscious to kick in for you creatively. So you sit down at, say, nine every morning, or ten every night. You put a piece of paper in the typewriter, or you turn on your computer and bring up the right file, and then you stare at it for an hour or so. You begin rocking, just a little at first, and then like a huge autistic child. You look at the ceiling, and over at the clock, yawn, and stare at the paper again. Then, with your fingers poised on the keyboard, you squint at an image that is forming in your mind " a scene, a locale, a character, whatever " and you try to quiet your mind so you can hear what that landscape or character has to say above the other voices in your mind. The other voices are banshees and drunken monkeys. They are the voices of anxiety, judgment, doom, guilt. Also severe hypochondria. There may be a Nurse Ratched " like listing of things that must be done right this moment: foods that must come out of the freezer, appointments that must be canceled or made, hairs that must be tweezed. But you hold an imaginary gun to your head and make yourself stay at the desk.

You get the point. It isn't easy to follow this advise, that is why I am giving it again. Because truthfully, although it is simple, you can never hear it enough. Sadly, most don't consider it until they are desperate. Wouldn't it be nice to have your pages complete when your boss asks to see them? This is how:

1.Don't panic
2.Pick a keyword or keyword grouping
3.Set a time everyday to write. Block out your calender for an hour. Don't answer your phone. Don't let people talk to you. Shut off your email notifications. Sit there and write.
4.Set a page writing goal. Make it attainable.

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4 Responses to “Overcoming Drunken Monkeys & Writing Tips”

  1. Sue Bailey says:

    "Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is a great book." You think?

    I think it's the worst book about writing I've ever read. She mocks the people in her writing classes, she's vague and waffly, and most importantly, she wanders off into fluffy religion that has nothing to do with the topic she's supposed to be covering.

  2. Megan Slick says:

    Sue,

    I'm sorry that you didn't like the book. I only have one other friend that I know of who has read it and she said she liked it also. I guess that is the great thing about books on writing, if you don't like one, there are a million others to read. What's your favorite book on writing?

    Megan

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