I get a lot of ads for Masterclass around the winter holidays. It’s become an annual tradition. 🎄 A lot of the ads are for the classes taught by pro writers.
They all introduce their Masterclass on video while interstitial string music plays, saying mostly useless things about writing that sound profound.
Like when Joyce Carol Oates says, “The enemy of good writing is interruption,” in her Masterclass ad. I heard her say it three or four times before I found my fingers Googling ”Does Joyce Carol Oates have children?” And also… “Does Joyce Carol Oates have a smartphone?”
Recently Masterclass added Walter Moseley. He also doesn’t have children. (I’m not sure about the smartphone.) But in his ad, he said something that I found more useful.
“I wake up, write three hours, 1,000 words. Next day, the first thing I do is re-read that 1,000 words I wrote yesterday. And then I write my next 1,000 words. And that goes on and on until I get to the end of the novel.”
He says so much other stuff becoming part of the culture and ideas bubbling up from noplace and those are lovely things to think about, too.
But they’re useless to me as I develop my own writing skills. What’s the difference?
The difference is the thing he said about 1,000 words is a description of behavior, not a description of belief.
Behavior vs. belief. When you sit down to write, only one of the two sits down next to you and helps you create.
And folks! It ain’t fancy pants, prettified, hoity-toity belief.
Por ejemplo… Oates believes interruption is the enemy. Then what am I to make of Toni Morrison’s belief that the door to her home office should always be open while she was writing, in case one of her sons needed her?*
Oates and Morrison and Moseley and all professional writers do the writing. They do the work. That’s the behavior.
Behavior shapes their beliefs about writing. NOT the other way around.
That’s why I won’t glean what I need from their descriptions of their beliefs. My behavior will shape my own beliefs about writing. I need help sticking to writing in order to build those beliefs. That’s why I want to know about the behavior.
What are the things they’re doing that get the work done?
Which brings me back to Walter Moseley.
When Walter Moseley says he writes 1,000 words and then he comes back the next day and writes 1,000 words, I don’t think to myself, “OK! I just need to write 1,000 words a day. But wait a minute! I can’t do that because…”
::Googles whether I have children because my brain is so fried I forget.::
I do think: “He writes. Then he reads what he wrote the next day and he continues. That’s how his words on the page turn into a book.”
I’m ghostwriting a book right now and I’m telling you, directly from daily experience, Walter Moseley’s description of his behavior IS USEFUL.
✔Write each day.
✔ Read back what you wrote the next day.
✔ Write some more.
I can believe any number of things about whether the words I write are good or good enough. Other people can tell me what they believe.
But my behavior moves my writing forward. Even with these dang kids in the background.
*I didn’t find out about Morrison’s belief from Masterclass ads but from this brilliant documentary which you can watch for free.