How to Write

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February 13. Notes written in order to abolish this damn writer’s block plaguing me once again.

In the morning, get up. Make the bed in the style of a fancy hotel room. Think of all the things that come with a fancy hotel room like room service and fluffy white bathrobes. Make a small list of these things. They may come in handy.

In the kitchen arrange the usual combo plates for the cats. Frown because they only ever eat the more expensive stuff. Say to them, “cat food money doesn’t grow on trees”. Wonder why strays always seem to circle like sharks around your ankles then see all the cat food, treats and tuna tins you have stacked in the closet.

Get the seed jars out for the birds. You like to make a special mix for them in the style of a chef. You like to do this methodically. This is called procrastination.

The usuals have arrived. The Bullfinches. The Robins. Chaffinches. The Siskins like to sit in the seed bowl. The others think this is crazy.

Make coffee. You need to get caffeine into the very veins of you as quickly as possible. Drink the first cup in a succession of gulps while standing at the counter.

Do not comb your hair. Stay in the pajamas so you are not tempted to leave the premises. You look too ridiculous to go anywhere. Pour more coffee.

Make your daily commute from the front door, 20 steps to the right and into the studio. Arrange your things. Sip your coffee. You have appeased your brain so now, you can afford to drink it leisurely. Open the laptop. Stare at the screen.

The story is this.

Say, “ok, where are we?” Hopefully there will be an answer inside your head and hopefully it will be the one you want to hear. Then you can begin.

Keep the number of words for the day in mind.

The tortoiseshell cat is out there somewhere screaming. She is relentless, like a stormy ocean of fur. Open the door and yell, “be quiet”.

She is pretty old. And deaf. Now she is howling. She wants milk so she can get the runs again and find a concrete pipe to lounge in.

Back at your desk. That character needs to stay in his predicament a bit longer. Stare at the screen. Type him into more trouble. Think of ways to embarrass him and wonder where this intense dislike comes from. Think that writers are really just people with vendettas and that fancy hotel rooms sometimes have verandas.

There, another sound from outside. That sound is a tractor in the distance and sheep roaring in the next field. They aren’t even supposed to be there. The forestry company outlined this but the rural motto is ‘this is Ireland, we can do what we like’.

Write that one down.

Look out the window pondering why writing is like a trip to the dentist.

Back inside the house look in the fridge. Yogurt and fruit is too healthy. Sometimes writing requires food for the soul, not the body. That character is desperately waiting for you to help him out of the predicament you just got him into. Make a crisp sandwich on white bread with a lot of butter.

Back at the desk, bring in that other character because he is much more interesting than the one in the predicament. If the one in the predicament stays in trouble a little longer he might realize he needs to become more interesting. He will get the point that you are unhappy with him. Write him onto the side of a mountain at night. He is staying at an expensive, stylish hotel and has drunk too much champagne and wandered outdoors in his fluffy white bathrobe. He is lost in very high grass and is concerned there may be ticks. Make him say something like, “this is the story of my life”.

When you were on your way back from the house you may have noticed the grass growing too fast. It’s February. Didn’t you mow it a few months ago? Decide to investigate by looking out the window but only squint. Maybe it won’t look as bad.

It does look as bad.

Back to the interesting character. He really is a piece of work. Why did he just do that? Has he no scruples. Decide that all those sayings about characters/stories writing themselves might actually be true. If this is the case, you may as well retire.

Remember, you need to clean the bathroom. Think of a new story about a man smoking a cigarette who accidentally blows himself and his tractor up while spreading slurry. Think that sometimes your ideas sound dumb and lacking in vision and realize that you’ve always had a problem with plot.

Remember, you have a jewelry order. You really should do that now.


No, you still have 235 words to go until you can stop.

Think back to younger days when concentrate wasn’t a word you associated with tomato paste or orange juice.

You need help. A good talking to.

A kick in the…

Tell yourself there is no need for violence. Instead calmly, like a sane person, pick up your pen and make a note about these other tasks. Prioritize. Breathe.

Draw a peace sign and offer it to yourself as a goodwill gesture.




Look at the clock. Time for lunch.

Say, “Lunch is for people who get paid to eat. I don’t get paid to eat. In fact, I don’t get paid at all.”

Decide the character in the predicament hasn’t suffered nearly enough.

How to Write (c) 2023 Deborah McMenamy

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