From Research to Writing in Three Days

Stephen King has written a lot of wonderful words, but it’s his quotes on the process of writing that resonate with me the most. Most months, I most appreciate his thoughts on reading:TK-pitlaneIndy

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

This month, I’m embarking on a new book journey, and it’s this statement that I’m hugging to my chest:

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

Following Mr. King’s advice, I got up yesterday, June 1, and got to work. I did the same thing today, June 2. And I’ll do the same thing for the next three months until my next book is done.

Note: I’m trying very hard not to add the words “I hope,” because the truth is, I’ve never exactly done it before. Oh, I’ve written books, but I tend to write them in two chunks—I typically have a break and a breakdown at about the 2/3 point of the story, as I figure out just how to make all of the drama and characters I’ve thrown onto the page work. But this time around, I wrote just a couple thousand words and then got wrapped up in a whirl of promotion for my recent book, which leaves me with a deadline and no time to mess around.

Which is, frankly, probably a good thing.

So I’m telling myself this every morning: You’re a professional. You’re not precious about the adjustment of the lighting or the cleanliness of your desk orESPN pit team the brand of tea you’re drinking. You’re a professional and this is what you do. Do it.

What’s especially interesting about my new June habit is how dramatically my world changed from May 29 to June 1. On the first of June (and today), I sat alone in my quiet home office and created imaginary worlds and characters in my head. On May 29, I stood in the middle of more than 350,000 people at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to experience the Indy 500 race. And not only was I on hand to research the Indy 500 for my next book, I was at the heart of the race: working in the pits as support for the ESPN broadcast.

So I’m feeling a little situational whiplash! I’m feeling the pressure of my looming deadline, and I’m feeling the obligation of not letting down all the people who generously helped me with research.

But I’m using all of those sensations to drive me to “just get up and go to work.” To remind me not to stress about what I’m going to write the next day, but simply to get up and do it. To remind me to have faith that I’ll come up with something—because I’ve done it before.

I keep some of the photos from my research trip near me, as well as some of the physical mementos—my ESPN hat and credentials, a tee-shirt from the race. They’re good motivation. As is another quote, this one from Ernest Hemingway:

“The first draft of anything is shit.”