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When Writing, Get Dirty

digging

When you are a writer, you want to produce highly polished gems to show off to your friends, peers, and beloved audience. Do you know where gems are found? In the dirt. Gold also is something that is highly valued. Gold is found in dirt. Pirates bury their treasure. It seems like everything of value involves dirt. (One exception is ambergris and frankly I would rather get dirt on my hands…).

Writing involves strictly metaphorical dirt. For us, digging in the dirt is the daily grind. The writing that nobody reads; that you never bother to post or publish. The stuff that you cut and throw out. The first draft that is horrible. The second draft that is nothing like your first and is even worse. The day or week that you spend digging and have no gems to show off for your effort.

Some days you don’t feel like you’re mining for gems and gold, some days you feel like you’re just digging a ditch; or a grave.

What is the point of all these dirt references? The point is: I had nothing to write about today. Nada. Usually I’m always reading a book or two, and I’ll spin a blog post off of a subject from whatever I happen to be reading. It just so happens the chapters I’m currently reading are all about subjects I’ve covered recently in my blog, or in my book, or in that infomercial I did for that one particular product you’ve never heard of (because it’s fictional).

So I did what you should do if you’re ever facing an imminent deadline and you’re not sure what to do or what to write about. It’s a two part process:
1. Start
2. Continue

So, I just started writing. I didn’t bother to worry about the content or the final result or the subject matter. I just started writing, looking for some ore that I could maybe polish up later. If you just start digging, sometimes the mechanical process of writing puts you into a creative mindset and allows you to come up with a gem.

Remember this while you’re digging in the dirt:

  1. Every scoop of dirt you cast aside, is one less scoop between you and the gem. Time is on your side, provided you do not start and quit. Remember, step 2.
  2. The deeper you dig, the more precious the gem. That’s why the best part of any movie is the “training montage.” Because you get to see the effort that goes into the reward.
  3. Have faith that the gem is there. I believe every person has a book within them waiting to be written, or a story waiting to be told. I, for example, just finished telling you a gem of a story about dirt.

One final dirty metaphor: If you throw enough mud at a wall, eventually some of it will stick.

How do you coax, encourage, or force yourself to keep digging through the dirt?

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