‘Don’t just do something, sit there!’ – how to sit with your novel

Posted: September 16, 2009 in graffiti living
Tags: , , ,

Time passes. It is going to pass no matter what you do. So, you may as well spend it in the company of your novel. Take time out of your busy schedule to sit with your novel. It is better to sit there and struggle and stare at it than to avoid it altogether for fear of what will happen, or for the fact that you find it hard to do. Just sit there, set your watch.

Set your watch for an hour. A lunch break or coffee break will do at a push, but if you can carve out a full hour to sit with your novel then so much the better. Get out your things. Get out your magnum opus, your deluded scribblings, or your dead and empty pages. Get out your work notes. Sit there, and stare at them. Just sit there, be mindful. Allow whatever fear and nervousness that arises to come to the surface. Sit with it. Sit with all your pain, all your thoughts, all your worrying. And for the longest time possible, do nothing other than look at your work. Then, when you can’t stand it any longer, begin writing.

You are allowed to write anything at all, so long as it is your novel. Keep all of this work in once place – be that a notebook or a folder or a file on your laptop. Sit with your novel and write down whatever comes that is related to your novel. Try to focus solely on your novel. It doesn’t matter how good or bad it is, just that it’s your novel. If this begins to drive you crazy, then you can start to write down any surface run off anxiety thoughts and random ideas that you have, but be sure to keep them in a separate place. This is a last resort, however, and should only be done if you fear that you may otherwise start shooting strangers!

Sit with your novel until the time is up. Do this every day, for an hour if you can – but always try to sit with a specific piece of work in front of you for a fixed length of time. Show up for work, even if you do nothing. If you’ve written nothing beforehand, then turn up at an empty page and write ‘novel’ at the top of it. Stare at this page every day until you start writing again. It’s more important at this stage to show up. To show up at all. That is all you have to do in the beginning – arrive, show up, and sit with your novel. Sit with your blocks, sit with your fears. Allow the novel to exist as it is.

Then, go back to your life in the ‘real world’. Feel any different?


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