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How to Read Fiction and Watch Movies to Add Depth and Feeling to Your Writing

To win the race, always remember there's a finish line.

The temptation to treat your writing as a fun hobby or a romantic affliction is far too strong. I’m reminded of the quote from the movie Sliding Doors when the no-good boyfriend is asked if he’s finally finished his novel and he answers:  “I’m a novelist. I’ll never be done.”  (The hysterical laughter that a friend and I – both of us novelists – erupted in when that line came up probably puzzled the rest of the theater.)

Even for novelists who have finished many novels, finishing each new novel requires fighting back the encroaching tide of quotidian distractions.

That this week included “interesting events” in the news, an unusual number of appointments, and other such things having to do with family and other such obligations  is an explanation but not an excuse. While you’re writing, real life keeps on happening. And in the ultimate analysis, Robert A. Heinlein was right when he said:

In the absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.

So the goal is important, which is what I’m trying to give myself with this thirteen-week program.

Heinlein waxed eloquent about how to vanquish this sort of daily distraction in his Channel Makers speech -- a fan of mine reminded me of it on my blog:

It means working when you don’t feel like working, even though there is no one to tell you that you must. It means following these rules even when you are disheartened by a long string of rejections and your head aches and your stomach is upset—and your wife thinks you are a fool not to look for a job. It means refusing to see your best friends when you are writing. It means telling your wife and children to get out of your study and stay out! It means offending people who can’t understand that writing must not be interrupted—not for dinner parties, not for birth, not even for Christmas. It means getting a reputation as a bad-tempered, self-centered curmudgeon—and resigning yourself to living with that reputation no matter how eagerly you want to be liked—and writers do want to be liked, else they would not be trying to reach people through writing.

And trust me, I’ve lost friends who thought I was too “self-centered” and too “ambitious” because I insisted on finishing a novel on time. If you want to succeed in any self-directed field of endeavor, be it art, science, or literature, it is what is required. And it is worth it.