Write Your A** Off

2009 NYWC Write-a-Thon logo (click for more info)

Important: Please read the update at the foot of this post. If you can’t read that, at least read the boldfaced parts of the post itself. Thanks for visiting!

The blogosphere — or maybe it’s just the corner I’ve been mostly visiting, the one with the writers and other assorted wordsmiths — seems to have been overtaken by despair recently. Or maybe it’s not despair, exactly. Maybe more like anomie, a sort of formless uncertainty about the whole enterprise of getting language onto paper or screen, into lyrics and scripts.

Many people mutter, darkly, about the prospect of ever getting published — traditionally, or even at all. Others just want to take a break. Go on hiatus. Explore other creative avenues. Bug out.


I think we could all use a shot in the arm. Maybe we need to take a page from the New York Writers Coalition, which has designated next Saturday, May 16th, as their 4th Annual Write Your A** Off Day (or, less in-your-face, the Write-a-Thon).

At the NYWC’s page of information about this year’s event, you’ll see that it comprises several activities:

  • Devote a full day to your writing
  • Meet Novelist Jennifer Belle!
  • Attend free, fun, inspiring workshops
  • Help fund NYWC’s free creative writing programs for the formerly homeless, at-risk youth, seniors and many others
  • Enjoy gift-bag freebies and compete for top-pledge Prizes
  • Munch on Free Lunch and Light Breakfast

Now, I’m not saying we should all board (as the movie title goes) planes, trains, and automobiles and descend upon the Big Apple. Certainly not with just a few days’ notice — and I’m not sure that even NYC would be prepared for the arrival of tens of thousands of even well-off, flexibly-scheduled novelists, essayists, non-fiction authors, poets, and screen- and songwriters from the hinterlands and other six continents. (Hello, McMurdo Base!)

I’m not even talking about duplicating all their events with your local versions. Again, awfully short notice and all that.

But, hmm, that one event does sound sort of appealing:

Devote a full day to your writing.

What a… what a radical idea. Not asking us to set aside 30 days, a la NaNoWriMo. Not even asking us to write for 24 hours straight, or even for a standard-issue eight-hour workday. (The official NYWC “day” is only 7-1/2 hours, from 10:30 to 6, with a break for lunch.)

Nope. It’s not write for a day. It’s devote a day to your writing.

Write some, sure. Nobody could object to that. But even if you never lay your fingers on your keyboard, never pick up your pen or handheld voice recorder, even then: can you set aside 7-1/2(ish) hours in a single block of 24 hours to think about, work on, research, accommodate, market, and/or otherwise honor the act and craft of writing? Your own writing, that is, and not someone else’s?

Would you ever consider taking that time to attend a workshop or conference in your town, for free? If so, why not take it on your own, or with a partner?

Even if not on Saturday, May 16th: doable, you think? Any takers? Reactions? Bueller?

Update 2009-05-11: A few points to emphasize:

  • If you want to spend the whole 7.5 hours actually writing, sure, go ahead. But give yourself a break somewhere in the middle of it. It’s not healthy to spend 7.5 hours in front of a computer — even counting BRBs.
  • The exact day isn’t important — not even the exact weekend, or month, or what-have-you. This is a day to make you excited and happy about your writing. If you’ve got to jump through hoops to crowbar it into the coming (or any other) Saturday, weekend, whatever, you are not going to enjoy the experience.

I wanted to emphasize these points because it seems an awful lot of people are stressing out and saying No, thanks: it’s too inconvenient, it’s flat-out impossible, and so on. If you’re interested in doing this, please make it easy for yourself to do it. And if you’re not gonna do it, don’t bail because it’s “too hard.” If you need to relax a “rule” or two, I think it’s better to do that than to dismiss the gimmick out of hand.

But that’s just my opinion. :)

Update 2: The New York Writers Coalition, those sneaky devils, changed the URL of their Write-Your-A**-Off page. I’ve updated the link from their logo, above, accordingly.

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  1. I WANT TO DO IT!!!

    i’m such a sucker for group activities (noticed yet?). but what an awesome idea!!

  2. Yep, count me in. Fri 15th blocked out in honour of Write Your A** Off Day :) Never give up, never give in eh?

  3. moonie: I’m not normally one for group activities (karaoke? sorry!), especially structured ones. But it’s kinda hard for me to pass on one with essentially no rules at all.

    Kate: Good news! I haven’t picked a day yet myself but this would be so great, like the day a couple weeks ago when my sibs and I devoted an entire day just to us, as sibs. Just spending (say) an hour talking to The Missus about the WIP (hmm, I probably need to ask first… :)), and 3 to 4 hours writing, and then taking a 4-hour break, and working on agent lists for the Work No Longer in Progress (the WoNLIP)… Like, the time would just fly, right?

  4. It’s a great idea which I somehow find terrifying.

  5. Squirrel: Terrifying is good, right?

    (recaptcha phrase: of bakunin. It may or may not be terrifying, but it’s anarchistic!)

  6. Love Bueller!

    If I devote a day to writing it is going to have to be a Friday–my day off work and the kiddo is in school. But I haven’t thrown in the metaphorical towel or given up or asked for the point of it all (have watched too many videos about the universe to ask for the point)–though I’m starting to suspect that all the full-time writing days in the world are not going to get me published.

    What I really want is to quit my job so I can work while the kiddo is in a school and then be able to go to bed at a decent hour.

    And I do NaNo, which is a month of writing-one’s-a**-off. But I that is a few months away yet… I’ll find a day. See what happens.

  7. This is an AMAZING idea, and so perfect for my easily distracted self!

  8. marta: I have no idea how I’d manage anything like a “real” writing routine if I had a little kid to worry about shepherding through life at the same time. And trying to manage a burgeoning artistic career at the same time? Eek.

    When I took two years “off” to write, back in the early 1990s, it was simultaneously the greatest thing I’d ever done for myself and the scariest. There are times when I look back on it and wish I had the $$$ that I burned through… but I don’t think those times count for me anywhere near as much as — let alone more than — the times when I smile about it.

    CT: Great — let me know how it goes!

    [Hmm. reCaptcha says: Memorial dazzling…]

  9. Yup I’m in but doing it Friday instead of Sat- just been away from the rest of my family for four days already this week- no way they’ll let me ignore them on a weekend… Putting it in my diary now.

  10. Misssy: Hooray — anything to get out of (or bring on) the funk! (And I would’ve been REAL surprised if you’d written off a weekend day. :)

  11. Heard about this on moonrat’s blog.

    Like Marta, I have kids and a full-time job. However, I had already scheduled this weekend — all of it — to working on my novel. So, can I still say “I’m doing it” if I was already planning on doing it??

  12. Christa: You bet that still counts!

    (Er, well, it does for me. In fact, if you actually manage to pull off the whole-weekend feat, I’d say you can consider it a down payment on a similar goal next year. :)

  13. Now, this is something I can adopt. I love the idea or NaNoWriMo, but it occurs during my busiest month of the year so I wait until January. January disqualifies me from saying I “legally” finished NaNoWriMo.

    Lately I’ve been doing this type of write-a-thon every week day because I need to write as much as possible while living off of a an advance and investment. Writing my Ass off seems the best way to describe this. It fits in nicely with my editor’s philosophy of self discipline, “Just Do the Damned Thing”.

    I will be joining in this weekend, absolutely!

    (This may have posted 2x. I got an error.)

  14. I’m excited about this! Lately I’ve gotten into the habit of writing on my two days off during the week. This wouldn’t be a bad habit except that I no longer write outside of those two days. No weekends. No evenings. This is just what I need to get me out of my rut and let me play with some new ideas I’ve been kicking around!

  15. Debra Young says:

    OH YEAH! I’m in! I’d already decided to spend that Saturday with one of my WIP’s anyway, and I was going to work on it from 10 to 6. I’m feeling happy already! Didn’t know about the New York event but thanks!

  16. Well, it’s tempting. Really tempting…it won’t work for Saturday, or even Friday. I took a day off for no reason on the 26th…if I postpone til then, does it still count??

  17. OK, I did it yesterday. I sent out a large batch of story manuscripts, both snail and e mail, something I haven’t done in years, something I’ve been avoiding, something I didn’t think I’d ever do again. I just held my nose and did it. Took several hours, didn’t look at the clock. Hope I put enough postage on and they don’t come rolling back. Otherwise, it’s a big relief and I’m done. Does that count?

  18. I’m not bailing or stressing out. Really. Not about this anyway. I’ve been reading my 2006 NaNo novel this evening and feel enthusiastic enough. Don’t need to devote a Saturday. Already there.

    recaptcha: days flood (So true.)

  19. I’m in for Saturday too, John. I’ve a short story to finish and a handful of book reviews to write. Thanks for the great idea.

    captcha? Mary united :-)

  20. @Alex King – As with you, NaNoWriMo didn’t land on my calendar at a good time. (Maybe there should be 12 of them: NaNoWriMoNo, NaNoWriMoDe, NaNoWriMoJa…) Love your editor’s philosophy — and I trust you never have occasion to remind him/her of it? :)

    @JenniferWriter – Well, you have started a good blog, and I think that counts as writing. But I know what you mean; spending N minutes on a blog entry feels like stealing N minutes from “real” writing, eh?

    @Debra Young – Looking forward to hearing how it goes!

    @cynth – I checked with the god of procrastination, who occupies the cubicle next to the god of writers’ resolutions. (Small Gods!) The former asked me a few questions about you and we talked for a few moments. Then the latter apparently heard us over the wall and laughed, uttering a sarcastic remark. Apparently the two of them do not get along, because things rapidly fell apart. I left when they started shooting those stretchy rubber-band lightning thingies back and forth at each other but my general sense is that neither will be watching closely should you reschedule to the 26th. Or any other day, come to that.

    @Querulous SquirrelCongratulations! One of the best pieces of the-business-of-writing news I’ve heard in weeks, seriously. Personally, I believe time spent on submissions is subject to some sort of Einsteinian foreshortening — the mass goes to infinity, the length to zero — so five minutes of locating addresses, licking stamps, and all that is actually an hour of real-world time. So yes, that counts in spades.

    @marta – “Already there” is one of the sweetest sensations for a writer, isn’t it? This Saturday I’ll be doing close to 7.5 hours of writing and related stuff, and I too am not stressing too badly.

    @Nancy – We’ll expect a full accounting then. Depending on the size of that hand, by my count you will have reached an implicit “The End” at least three times by the end of the day, right? :)

  21. I think this is brilliant – the whole sentiment behind it, the day itself, all of that. I’ll be doing what I can!

  22. Aerin: Cool… I’m just hoping we’ll end up with a passel of writers sated by a day’s work, and not homicidal because of a day’s frustrations. :)


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