The Most Powerful Tip Ever to Get You
Writing More?

According to his daughter Susan, novelist John Cheever (1912 – 1982) …

" … wrote in a windowless storage space in the basement of our apartment house. In the morning he put on his one suit, went down in the elevator with other men on their way to work, took off the suit, hung it up and wrote in his boxer shorts."

Cheever would write till nightfall and then put his suit back on and go back to his apartment.

When playwright and songwriter ("Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "Give My Regards to Broadway") George M. Cohan (1878 – 1942) needed to come up with his next script, he would buy a train ticket from New York to Chicago.

He'd spend the entire trip in the Pullman drawing room, and when he emerged from the train in Chicago, he would have the finished script in hand.

Besides inventing the lightning rod, bifocals, and the iron furnace stove (among other things), Ben Franklin (1706 – 1790) was the first American to own a bathtub. (He imported it from Europe.)

Franklin not only loved to soak in it, he also loved to write in it.

Franklin wasn't the only person who loved writing in the tub. French playwright (Cyrano de Bergerac) Edmond Rostand (1868 – 1918) also loved to write in the bathtub. As did Vladimir Nabokov (1899 – 1977), author of the controversial novel Lolita.

Besides being wonderful writers, what is the common denominate of the authors I've just mentioned?

It can be summed up in two words. They knew the value of …

Staying seated.

As Bly describes it in his book Write More, Sell More, the act of staying seated means …

"You apply the bottom of your pants (your rear end) to the seat (your chair) and stay there until the work gets done."

This eliminates a lot of other things you could be doing if you're a freelance writer working from home … like laundry, watching television, making yourself a snack in the kitchen, and so on.

Of all the tips for writing faster available in the world, "staying seated" is probably the one that will increase your writing input the fastest. As Bly mentions in his book, mystery author Georges Simenon (1903 – 1989) was able to write 500 books simply by writing without interruption.

When I feel bankrupt of ideas or simply unmotivated, I’ve found that if I keep myself at my desk in my chair and focus on the task at hand, sooner or later, good things happen.

Bly recommends that you minimize both your distractions and the need to get up out of your chair. That means keeping any files, books, supplies, etc. you need within arm's reach (which probably eliminates Franklin's "tub method.")

So during your writing time, set your writing goal, and whether it's two pages or ten pages, park yourself in your chair and get to it.

I'm not suggesting you shouldn't take scheduled breaks, but you'll accomplish a lot more if you "apply the bottom of your pants to the seat" instead of lying down, getting up to make yourself a coffee, plopping yourself down in front the television set, making an unnecessary trip into town, and so on.

Do you think "staying seated" is the ultimate writing tip? Or do you have something else that trumps it? Please share your comments below.

So now you know how to get your projects done. But have you ever been between paying assignments and wondered what you should do with your time? If so, check out my article "16 Ways to Turn Writing 'Dead Time' into Productive Time … "

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Published: June 19, 2012

7 Responses to “The Most Powerful Tip Ever to Get You Writing More?”

  1. I want you to know that I really enjoyed reading your article.

    You have highlighted the eccentric behaviour of well-known writers.

    That is what makes your article stand out from the rest out there.

    Sitting down, however, is only one way to write. There are other ways to write.

    Sometimes, writing is about discipline. At other times, you have to let divine inspiration strike you. So, it depend.

    You have control over the conscious mind, but the subconscious is another ball-game.

    Archan MehtaJune 19, 2012 at 1:17 pm

  2. I think this is a great point - the ability to sit down and work is what separates many "artists" and wanna-be writers from those who actually make a living from their work. If you want to make it as a writer, you have to be willing to put in the hours writing instead of waiting for some magic moment or bit of divine spark. Get words on paper first .. and go from there.

    Jennifer AdamsJune 19, 2012 at 4:02 pm

  3. A couple of things I noted ... one, isolation, two, water.

    I like both, although writing in the shower is tough and since I'm a fan of technology it limits me somewhat (macbook + water = shocking shower!)

    Still, I find connecting with water and getting "away from my routine" an amazing way to stimulate the creative process.

    James BurchillJune 20, 2012 at 8:03 am

  4. Hi John,

    Nice article and love the examples from famous writers.

    You (and your readers) might enjoy a book called "The Writer's Desk" by Jill Krementz. It talks about writing spaces and habits. Also Google "Daily Routines," a blob on the same.

    There are other great creativity tips (like reading more). But yours is a good one too. To add to this, try working standing up. It helps you stay focused and it's better for your health.


    P.S. See you in Delray this year, yes?

    Guest (John Forde)June 20, 2012 at 8:25 am

  5. If you are interested in how the environment effects your writing try to Google propinquity.

    Guest (Joseph Benson)June 20, 2012 at 9:48 am

  6. Thank you everyone for your comments.

    John there is a good chance you will see me in Delay this year, yes. Thanks for your comments re: the article and thanks for your excellent suggestions.

    Guest (John Wood)June 22, 2012 at 9:50 am

  7. You know, I've been writing professionally and somewhat successfully for over 50 years.
    And I've found there is no one particular solution for writer's block, at least not for me.
    However, I discovered a long time ago that getting up (off the seat)and doing something like cleaning stalls (yes, I'm a horse person), working in the yard, etc., frees up my subconcious and let's it get to work on creativity and problem solving.
    I can usually return "to my seat" within an hour or so with enthusiasm and my course set.
    I would agree that once writer's block has been removed, you've got to rely on good old fashioned discipline to get the job done.
    I've found that if I just sit down at the computer with the idea of simply giving it an hour to see how things go, I'll end up writing for a surprisingly much longer period of time.
    But different strokes for different folks.

    Guest (Jim Hudson)June 22, 2012 at 3:36 pm

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