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Jerry B. Jenkins reveals the secret to good writing

While most folks view an appoaching weekend with anticipation because they’ll have time to rest and relax, writers with day jobs have a different view. Instead of working for their employers, they will spend the weekend doing hard labor for themselves.

Hard labor? Yes. Writing is work. For serious writers it is not a hobby. And while many understand that mental fatigue, even emotional exhaustion can occur…hard labor? As in physical labor? Yes. Just ask Jerry B. Jenkins, author of 150 books, including the Left Behind series:

“For me, writing is as exhasting as physical labor. After writing (and publishing) more than 150 books, that still surprises me. Sometimes, on deadline, I’ll sit at the keyboard for six, eight, ten hours or more. When I’m finished, I’m as spent as if I’ve been ditch-digging all day. I don’t understand it. It doesn’t seem that physically taxing, but it is. I guess it’s the fact that you must be constantly thinking in order to write.

Creativity will cost you, wear you out. Don’t ever get the idea writing is easy. If it is, you’re not working hard enough. I can’t tell you the number of writers who agree that the stuff that comes easy takes the most rewriting. And the stuff that comes hard reads the easiest.” — Jerry B. Jenkins, Writing for the Soul

Long hours at the computer, even those with built-in ten to fifteen minute breaks, generate a lot of writer fatigue. If you listen to many of the top writers in the business, most admit to spending four to six hours of solid writing at the computer with the other hours used up in editing and reviewing their work. Because of the exhaustive toll mentally, physically and emotionally, it’s good for writers to build in rewards and “play dates.” Good for them; good for their creativity.

Often writers use walks to provide a change of pace, to stimulate new thoughts, to allow their body and mind physical and psychical shifts. Some use these walks to either begin or end their day, while others intersperse them with quick power naps. For those who enjoy the company of others, a daily or weekly conversation at the local cafe or pub around the bend helps to ward of the weariness and provide immediate stimulation. These chats are not opportunities to talk about the current work or have a critique by a fellow writer. No, it’s time to catch up with others and dip back into the world.

I have two friends in particular that I meet up with on a fairly regular basis. One is a nonwriter and a friend for more than twenty years. We share stories about family and friends, chat about recent books we’ve read, and share our hopes and dreams. She loves to read so we do talk about books but it’s in a different way than when I talk books with other writers. Our conversation roams from art to crafts, from the past to the future. We love to travel and once we took a sudden trip to Florence, Italy for a week and soaked up the culture and spent hours in churches, museums, and cafes. Talk about casting off the present life and diving deep into another culture. . . .

My other friend is a published author who writes for children. We generally meet six to eight weeks and often use each other as sounding boards for ideas. We also share tips and ideas we’ve learned from recent reading. We talk and talk and talk–about books, about writing, about the industry. Our coffee breaks tend to run long, but when we leave we’ve inspired each other to go home and once again hit the keyboard.

Writing is such a solitary act. You have to be able to self-generate, self-inspire, self-motivate. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for friends and family and the stimulation they provide. The trick is partly in learning to focus and wholly in understanding that writing is hard, demanding work. It requires a lot of your time. It drains your energy. It sucks the life out of your creativity. That is why you must find ways to continually refill the well.

How will you spend your time? Is your well full? Do you need to expend some energy and buckle down to work? Or is time to come up for air and re-energize? Whatever you’re choice, enjoy.

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