how I shut up and get on with it

shut up


“The nearest I have to a rule is a Post-it on the wall in front of my desk saying ‘Faire et se taire’ (Flaubert), which I translate for myself as ‘Shut up and get on with it.'”


For today’s Morning Pages prompt in CO301D, my students and are writing about how we follow fiction writer Helen Simpson’s preeminent rule for writing:

“The nearest I have to a rule is a Post-it on the wall in front of my desk saying ‘Faire et se taire’ (Flaubert), which I translate for myself as ‘Shut up and get on with it.'” – Helen Simpson

Well, fortunately/unfortunately, she’s right. Some days it’s easier than others, and today to be honest, it’s kind of hard. (I say this even as I am writing this post). This morning as I was getting ready for work, I felt the familiar weight of panic and dread pressing down. As always, it’s accompanied by that voice inside my head that jeers, “So what do you have to say anyway?”

And it’s true that sometimes it feels as if the well has run dry. It’s usually after I finish a big project or when I have another non-writing related deadline. These are far too common this time of year, and sometimes I just want to crawl under a table like I did when I was in 4th grade and read/write whatever it is I want in the shadows.

But then, I remember, “Oh yeah, I chose this life and this identity, so maybe I should just shut up and get on with it.” Here are some practices I’ve learned that help me do that (all of which I clearly need to remind myself of this morning):

  1. Make a list. Of possible projects, of reasons you don’t want to write today, of ailments and complaints and wishes and dreams. Anything to keep your fingers moving over the keyboard.
  2. Make a mantra. Put it some place where you’ll see it often. My mantra is runwritebreathe. I bought a cheap little leather bracelet at a theme park and had the letters RWB engraved on it. I like like a child when I wear it. And yet.
  3. Don’t break the chain (aka “The Seinfeld Strategy”). I found a very, very rudimentary digital version of this strategy that holds me accountable to myself. It’s an app called Write Chain. You enter your daily word goal. You decide what realistically constitutes a chain for you (e.g., Do you get a day off each week without breaking the chain?). You enter the words you actually wrote that day. Then you are congratulated for not breaking the chain and you learn how many links you’ve accumulated. And, look, sometimes life gets in the way. Instead of beating yourself up about it, just pick up another link and get going.
  4. Set a timer. Ten minutes usually does the trick for me, as it did just now. Time’s up, and whether I said anything profound or not in that, turns out I did write. I did have something to say. I just shut up and got on with it. And more often than not, I find that I want to keep writing.

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