Here are ten things I know for sure about writing:
1. If you are the kind of person who doesn't like to be told what to do - your protagonists will resist your efforts to make them behave. It's weird - almost like they came from you and weren't born free of your influence. Wait a minute...
2. Life in all its wild chaotic nowness will rise up and lay a beating on you if you try to ignore it for your manuscript. And knowing it won't be half the problem solved.
3. A woman will come to you in your dreams wearing a fantastic outfit of that weird sparkling fabric from the sixties. Silver or gold lamé. That's it. She will insist on you feeling the fabric. She wants to be in your novel. Don't let her in. She'll drive you crazy and so will that itchy stuff.
4. You might not like Neil Young - I really don't think I'd like to spend a whole bunch of time with him - but he is a narrative genius. I want to know what happens to him when he's wandering lonely on the highway. I do. And he understands pace and mood and style.
5. In the middle of the night when the woman in the fabulous lamé comes calling you will wake up and lie there wondering if anyone truly truly knows what plot, story and structure are. And you'll be sure, because it is the middle of the night, that anyone does but you do not.
6. After you finish fretting about plot, story and structure you'll move on to wondering if you haven't been lying to yourself about everything to do with your writing. You'll also wonder what the slinky shiny material is called. You won't remember that it is lamé until the next day and even then you might need to spend an inordinate amount of time on google trying to find it. Time you could be spending on your plot, story and structure for instance.
7. Even though you know all experiences are treasure for your work-in-progress you will be perplexed as to how you can use your new understanding of various strange and out-of-date fibres in a plot where clothing of any sort has barely been mentioned and then it was describing First Nation's dance regalia. Perhaps you need to bring in another character, you'll think! It might solve all your plot, story and structure issues. Well it might! Just like having a baby with your philandering gambling alcoholic husband might help your marriage. Well it might!
8. When your head hits your pillow after a good day in those long dug out ditches that guys fought in WWII - what are they called? Oh, yes, trenches, after a long day in the revisioning trenches you will fall asleep like a baby and the answer to your plot, story, structure problem will come to you intact in a dream. The woman in the lamé outfit (her fifth one!) will explain it to you perfectly. You will feel so relieved. Until you wake up and you realize that she told you the key was that god backwards spells dog. Oh yes. It will happen.
9. You will rise none the less and you will work in your optimum time of day for success. You will eat good healthy brain food and you will stop only to do your pilates or your yoga (where are those tapes - damn it) or take your dog for a much needed walk because hey, he didn't ask you to be a writer now did he?You will find your groove because you've read King and Koch and Lamott and you know it is showing up that counts and the heck with the muse. It's work for heaven's sake not a calling. And you will churn out the work, the shitty first draft or the clarity revision or the final draft or whatever mixture of those three plus the diversions you've taken allow you to call it. Because you are a writer. And you will sleep the sleep of the just.
10. You will awake after sleeping the sleep of the just and look at your previous day's work even though Elizabeth S-C told you NOT TO and it will be brilliant! No it won't. But there will be threads of brilliance in amongst the dog puke and it will simply have to do.
And that is what I know for sure.