The Greatest Strength of a Writer: Willpower

by | Apr 13, 2010 | The Writing Life | 158 comments

In a strange twist of either delusions of grandeur or masochism, writers have done their best to convince the world that writing is a wondrous pursuit filled with nothing but sudden bursts of inspiration and creativity after painful writer’s block.

You know how it goes in the movies and on TV: The morose writer will be walking down the street and a stranger will say to them, “Hey, jerkwad, what are you staring at?” and then the writer will get a funny little smile and walk a little faster and then pretty soon they’re skipping down the street toward their typewriter shouting, “Jerkwad! Jerkwad!! BY GOD I’VE GOT IT!!!!” and then there’s a montage of them frantically typing out their future bestseller.

I don’t know about your writing process, but that isn’t how mine works.

Sure, there are Eureka moments walking down the street or in the shower or while at the zoo (“Monkeys… MONKEYS!!!”), but if novelists wrote only when they were inspired it would take a hundred years to string together a novel. If you’re really going to finish one, you’re not only going to have to spend quite a lot of time writing and revising when you don’t feel like it, you’re going to have to spend quite a lot of time writing when you would rather be lighting your toes on fire.

The great Jane Yolen has a name for this: BIC. Butt. In. Chair. That is the writing process. Butt in chair.

You could also call it:

OMGTWISNTBICGOBINTW: “Oh my god the weather is so nice today but I can’t go outside because I need to write.”

IRWICGTTBGBIHTW: “I really wish I could go to that baseball game but I have to write.”

DMMIJGTSATBCSUITOS: “Don’t mind me, I’m just going to stare at this blank computer screen until I think of something.”

Just about everyone on the planet thinks about writing a novel at some point. Many of them really could and many of them could do it really well.

But there’s only one way to actually do it: BIC. Powering through when you want to stop, blocking out days on the calendar when there are more fun things you could be doing, staring at the pad or screen early mornings and late nights, and most of all, setting aside your doubts along the way.

And that’s of course even before you summon your willpower to try and jump through the hoops necessary to get the thing published.

If writing is always fun you may be doing it wrong.


  1. Keri Stevens

    Today I'm doing it right.

    It really is lovely out there.

  2. Natania Barron

    Yeah, I totally agree with you here, Nathan. Not to mention there's something really sublime when writing the hard way starts working out: when you didn't think you had anything in you, and you sit down, and it's absolutely magic. That's when you start to realize you're a writer by vocation and not by hobby, I think. I prefer that feeling to being inspired any day, since inspiration is fleeting and fickle and lame. I make my own magic!

  3. Mia

    DMMIJGTSATBCSUITOS << That's me right now….Please tell me this is a hashtag on twitter! *scrambles off to find out and/or create it*

  4. Lauren Johnson

    No, it's not always fun, because sometimes I just want to write all the good parts, lol.

    There was a part in my story of where my characters break someone out of jail and I just wanted to get to the end of that part and say, "And so they broke Lord Adam out of jail."

    I heard a resounding, "You can't do that." From my family aka the Peanut gallery, but most times I enjoy it – or else I wouldn't be doing it.

    I think you're dead on about the masochism aspect.

  5. Eva Ulian

    What do you want first, the blood, the sweat or the tears?

  6. Linda Godfrey

    Yes, writing is work, but the worst day of writing is better than the best day of teaching middle schoolers. Remembering that always revs my word engine.

  7. Liberty Speidel

    That's why someone invented laptops… so the lowly, pale writer can still get outside and get some sun and still be productive!

    Of course, the inventor of the wireless network needs to have their head examined… What lowly writer wants to be productive when there's Twitter, blogs, and Facebook that can be accessed while still outside?

    BTW, timely post. I'm having a big problem with not wanting to keep my butt in the chair today! Of course, being pregnant, I can't sit still too long!

  8. Rachel @ MWF Seeking BFF

    Thanks for this. I'm totally at that point where there's nothing left to do but get my BIC. I have some chapters due to my editor at the end of next month and I keep waiting for my schedule to "clear up." Uh, yeah that doesn't happen. I must clear it. Thank you for reminding me. Tonight: BIC.

  9. Matt Ryan

    Willpower. Discipline's best friend.

  10. Mary McDonald

    Some days, I have to resort to using Write or Die by Dr. Wicked.

    If you'v never been there, you can choose different modes from 'gentle' to electric shock mode, and the grace period from 'forgiving' to 'evil'.

    I go for the normal mode that merely flashes and plays horrible sounds if I take my fingers off the keyboard for a few seconds. I've heard the electric shock mode actually starts deleting your words if you stop typing.

    When you're done, you can copy and paste it to your own word processor.

  11. Susan Quinn

    I think writers should get some kind of award for finishing a book. Maybe a little trumpet fanfare you can download to your mini-laptop when you're avoiding working on your manuscript.

    But then you'd have to decide when you're actually DONE. Is it when I type THE END? When I'm done with revisions and send it off to query? When the editor's done with THEIR revisions?

    I think this is why we all desperately want to publish. So we can finally say Fin.

    And then start the next one.

  12. Martha Vega

    How about this: : Kill the WiFi.

    I find that BIC is much more effective when you've removed the Internet from the equation. As for the lovely days… Hey, those can be the best for inspiration: IAOIIFTCICGO: If And Only If I Finish This Chapter I Can Go Outside

    Now I have to go kill the WiFi and put my butt back in the chair.

  13. Josin L. McQuein

    What I want to know is how all those people who claim they need [X] in order to write ("X" being their addiction of choice) can string words together while chemically altered. I've been on medication for a week and the words zapped right out of my brain. (Lots of lovely pictures… just no words to describe them.)


  14. MotherReader

    I'm going to have to argue with: "and many of them could do it really well."

    I've seen way too many incoherent comments on news articles, websites, and – lord help us – YouTube to believe that all but a small fraction of the people could actually write well.

    But that's okay, but the process gets narrowed down pretty nicely by (a) the people who think they have a novel to write, (b) the people who actually sit down and write it, and (c) you guys.

  15. Kvn

    The movie sequence SLAYED me.

    My solution: a countdown timer set for 25 minutes. I don't think about it, I sit down and start it. Often, I barely notice the alarm, reflexively reset it and catch my breath 2 or 3 hours later. It's rare for the alarm to go off that first time without enough wind in my sails to reset for another 25 minutes.

  16. Carolyn V.

    That is so true! Writing is not always fun. It's work. But once that ms is finished…*happy sigh*

  17. JohnO

    I think you chose that image because of all the orange.

  18. M Clement Hall

    I heard of one guy who literally shackles his ankle to his chair so he doesn't keep getting up to do all those things that don't need to be done.
    I hope that's you relaxing on the yacht? If you have a boat, Nathan, I don't know how you'd ever find time to write — they're nothing but work.

  19. Daniel Jose Older

    TRUTH…its a long delicious frustrating amazing upsidedown inside out heart wrenching uphill mile-a-minute slow as hell trudge/march/glide/plummet/swoosh…lol

    thanks for another great post!

  20. Other Lisa

    If writing is always fun you may be doing it wrong.

    Oh, yes (she said, from her revision cave).

    Though it is actually so gorgeous out today that I'm going to have to get out in it for at least a little while. But I can't write without the additional oxygen to the brain.

  21. Naomi Canale

    Nathan this is GOOD stuff! Thanks for the jerkwad visuals…loved it.

  22. Anonymous

    Although I agree it absolutely takes willpower and butt-in-chair, I think it is also important to maintain balance in your life. Giving yourself the occasional break from your WIP is an important part of the creative process. It keeps you fresh, inspired and productive. I find that maintaining creative energy is much like maintaining physical energy: rest is important, too. On these blogs I rarely see aspiring writers acknowledging both the yin and the yang of creativity.

  23. Mira

    First of all, this was really funny. I'm still laughing at the second paragraph. Jerkwad, ha ha, ha. Funny stuff.

    Second, you are so dead on target, Nathan. And very timely for me. I was reminding myself yesterday that going onto agent blogs and giving them a hard time is not the same thing as actually writing anything.

    I suppose I could make a career of it, but looking back on a lifetime acheivement of writing on agent blogs doesn't have that special zing.

    My problem is that writing – if I'm going to be honest – just scares the beejeezus out of me. It terrifies the #%#$QW@ out of me.

    I need to get over myself. Posts like this really help. I need to get a kitchen timer and just go to it……

    BIC. Good to remember. Thanks!

  24. T. Anne

    My muse took last night off. I wrote without him. Sure it reeked, but I rewrote the scene this morning under his careful supervision. Sometimes it's OK to get the structure down, that way when your muse pops up again he has something to work with.

  25. mkcbunny

    Your final line reminds me of something a friend once said about all jobs: "If it were always fun, they wouldn't call it 'work.'"

    Even the best job in the world is work.

  26. Nathan Bransford


    Good point! I'll have to devote a future point to the restorative power of writing breaks.

  27. Lavinia

    There's nothing like a beautiful day to force a word count. I can go outside when I finish xxx words. It almost always works.

  28. Karen Lange

    Great post. Love the last sentence. Okay, so what is the phrase for needing chocolate while writing? I'll have to go work on that.

  29. abc

    I read an interview with Dave Eggers where he says they don't have any internet at home because if he did, he'd never write. He's committed!

    I could never do that, though, because I really love my and and

  30. Ann M

    Great post! Thanks as always.

    Sometimes I don't like taking credit for an idea because of that whole Eureka thing (I didn't try to think the idea up, after all, it just appeared out of thin air). Yet, that seems to take away from all the sweat, tears, and blood (thank you paper cuts!) that do go into writing. So, I finally decided that it's not so much taking credit for the ideas, but rather taking credit for recognizing the good ones and then molding them from an idea into a complete story (which requires lots of BIC).

  31. Hillary

    Probably it's because my formative years were in the '80s, but the lack of spontaneous time-warping musical montages is a daily disappointment to me.

    My favorite conversations are with non-writers who say "I could write a bestseller, because I have the best idea ever." I just smile and tell them good luck. Ideas can't spin themselves into 90,000 words of gold. Only willpower, dedication, the ability to power through droughts and frustration, and sacrifice can do that.

  32. J.J. Bennett

    LOL!!! Today someone gave me great advice. It was… Just do it! So I am.

  33. Kristan

    Mmm, great post, and I really like what Natania Barron had to add.

  34. Bethany Elizabeth

    I used to write like that.. only when inspiration hit. Not only did it result in very spastic writing and a confused plot, but it took me two years to write 90,000 word book. And not a good one. However, I was in seventh grade at the time, so maybe that's excusable. Now, I still procrastinate, but I do write when I don't want to. My writing is much, much better. 🙂

  35. Jennifer

    I have just begun slowly revealing to friends and family the fact that I am writing a novel. The response is fascinating, sometimes unflattering, only slightly encouraging (i.e. extremely mistaken belief that I am soon to have money to give them).

    Many folks state that they have a much better story idea or that their way with words surpasses my untested literary skills. I don't disagree with them, as I agree entirely with you that others also have great stories to tell and the ability to write very well. It is the BIC part that is the tricky part for most.

    It is similar to when I tell someone that I am a lawyer, and their response is to tell me that they had intended to go to law school too, everyone says they are amazing at debating and would make a great lawyer and that they would have been a very good at the law indeed if they had only scored higher on the LSAT, as if I should then somehow magically grant them an honorary J.D. on the spot.

    BIC – the unglamorous part that people want to skip over, just like the LSAT, three years of law school, massive student loans and passing a bar exam. Not to mention the billable hour (which is very similar to BIC, probably why there are so many published lawyer/authors, we are good at grinding out the work product).

    BIC since January = 50,000 WIP.

  36. Icy @ IndividualChic IsaByrne

    Hmm, monkeys could really work for me about now…jerkwad monkeys…jerkwad monkeys who have creepy stares and wave yellow fruit threateningly…hmm, I may have something there.

  37. Anonymous

    How many people have now got B.I.C taped to their screen / board / wall?

    "When you would be rather be lighting your toes on fire?" – ha ha, so I thought of cotton wool between toes when painting your nails which then reminded me (visually) of toasting marshmallows, so my BIC willpower melted and took me into the kitchen…but I'm happy. Thanks for the kick in the B. Let's do it people!

  38. Reesha

    It sounds like some kind of writerly swear word.
    *tries to use in actual sentence as a swear word*

    Okay, maybe that doesn't work so well.

  39. Dina

    I think that's why I was so annoyed by the movie "Alex and Emma" which was drivel to start, but really got under the skin with its ridiculous notions of the writing process.

    Have you seen it?
    The plot basically hangs on the idea that a bestselling novelist (Luke Wilson) has 30 days to write his second novel, and so he hires a stenographer so that he can dictate it to her.

    AS IF, the biggest bottleneck in novel writing is TYPING!!! And then of course, the process he uses is so ludicrous I threw my coffee mug at the screen.

  40. Kia Abdullah

    You're absolutely right. I gave a talk recently, which included the 5 traits of a successful author and I make a point about how number 4 is 'a desire to write' rather than 'a love for writing' because writing a novel doesn't always feel like love.

    As for BIC, the internet is such a huge distraction. I recently heard about a program called 'Freedom' which cuts you off from the net for up to 8 hours. I might give it a try!

  41. lexcade

    i am a fan of your last one. because…yeah.

  42. BonSue Brandvik

    Perfect timing on this post. I sooooo wanted to walk around the lake and watch the ducks today!

  43. Michelle

    I love it because it is so true! When I first started writing many years ago I too suffered from only writing when I was inspired and that's why it took me nearly eight years to finish a novel. But with more experience and and much more understanding, I now know what it really takes to get the job done. BIC-because without the butt in the chair you can't work through the writing hangups, the writers block, the procrastination, plot issues, characters that won't cooperate, boring dialogue, blah, blah, blah. Nothing will get done if you don't work through it and do a little bit everyday (or whatever schedule you've set for yourself). Writing makes a writer. Not writing makes a wishful writer.

  44. Anonymous

    I've gone beyond BIC.

    Permanently etched on the white board in front of me:

    "Have you written 2,000 words yet today?"

  45. Basil Zyllion

    There is a great book that I HIGHLY recommend known as CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE WRITER'S SOUL. It had a wonderful word in there that I live by very similar to yours. Known simply as "BUTTGLUE."

  46. Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado

    My mama used to say, "If you are dieting and you don't feel at least a little bit hungry, you aren't losing even a little bit of weight." Same thing here, "If you don't give up something from time to time (like SLEEP!) you can't possibly expect to finish your book." But you do need enough shut-eye to be able to function the next day. I have a lights out rule… no computer from midnight – 6 am.

  47. jongibbs

    I do love a catchy acronym 🙂

  48. Dara

    That's what I've been trying to do this week: BIC. And though there are many DMMIJGTSATBCSUITOS moments, I'm always glad at the end to see that word count go up and my book come closer to the end. 🙂

  49. AM Riley

    what I want to know is how does that (cool, but still) picture on your profile relate to BIC?

  50. MJR

    Is that guy painting the Golden Gate Bridge? I rode a bike across it a couple of years ago. It was kinda like writing a novel–not exactly fun. Actually it was pretty hard getting across it (scary fast cyclists zooming by me etc), but I'm glad I did it.

  51. Nicole L Rivera

    Lol…I love this post. I'm totally in the mood to set some shoes on fire. The funny thing is I'm writing my first proposal after finally getting a request. I am stoked, but right now I am working on the synopsis. I would rather beat my head against the wall. However, that's not going to get my book published, so now it's time to get off the net and do some BIC.

  52. Nathan Bransford

    AM Riley-

    Painting the Golden Gate Bridge with a skinny paint brush = writing a novel.

    At least in my brain!

  53. scarlettprose

    Beware of BIC. It is the main cause of BGB (Butt Gets Bigger). I recommend daily physical exercise before engaging in BIC. It will not only ward off an expanding arse but it will also get the creative neurons firing. There. It had to be said.

  54. Mayowa

    Ha! thats good.

    Gene Fowler summed it up perfectly when he said.

    "Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead."

  55. Moira Young

    Nathan, just for you:

    And this post could not have come at a better time. Over the last few days, I've been in exactly that kind of funk, and this was a good reminder. (Or more specifically, that I *have* sat my butt in the chair in the past, so I have no excuse for not doing so now.) Thanks!

  56. Marilyn Peake

    Nathan said:
    "If writing is always fun you may be doing it wrong."

    Thank you. I needed that. I am at the BIC stage – Butt in Chair doing revisions. But, oh my God, I am not happy. OK, I will stop now. No one wants to hear whining. 🙂

  57. Anonymous

    Writing was fun until I got my mms accepted. Now writing is WORK. 🙁

  58. Matera the Mad

    Depends on what I'm writing. But there's another side to this. IJWTBANIWTW!

    (I Just Went To Bed And Now I Want To Write)

  59. wendy

    Well, writing is always fun for me. Always. Even the revision. I feel really alive when experiencing either the creative connection or doing the fine-tuning. I don't think I've ever had writer's block. I even tell myself stories when waiting in line or held up somewhere and am thoroughly entertained. However, I won't argue that I could be doing something wrong, and this might be why I take years/decades to finish a project.
    But I suspect it's the amount of time I seem to need to fine-tune…the process results in the real never-ending story.

    Perhaps imagination is strong but concentration leaves something to be desired.

  60. angeliqueP

    When my dad, Louis L'Amour, arrived in Los Angeles after WWII he never drove anywhere…he never drove anywhere for the rest of his life–my mother drove or my brother or I drove him. He chose to never drive because if he did he would always want to know what was around the next bend or beyond the next ridge.
    It might seem a bit extreme but it worked for him!

  61. Jil

    For me writing, editing etc, is, if not exactly fun, always enjoyable. At least if I'm doing it wrong, I'm happy, and pleased with my, so far, six novels.
    Now writing queries is not fun so I don't do it. Hmm, maybe that's where the BIC comes in.

  62. Madeleine

    Wonderfully honest post. 😀

    I'm 14, and I'm acutely aware that sitting in front of a computer screen with aching eyeballs, waiting for words to pop into my head is not what the typical teen is doing in their afternoons.

    But it's what I do, and I love it, despite the agonizing and the fretting and the aching eyeballs that are screaming for eye-drops.

    I posted a post about the elusiveness of inspiration awhile back (, and I'm going to have to edit it to add a link to this post!

  63. Kate

    I write for a living (not novels)/work from home and sometimes I'm relieved when inspiration leaves me so I can concentrate on my WORK, like, work-work. Stuff that pays the bills, even though it's not nearly as much fun. Sometimes I have to remind myself that balance is necessary and I must enforce boundaries to restore that balance.

    Like when I haven't WORKED all day (or all week) cause I've been workin' on the novel. Or I start to feel the distance between my husband and me because I've been workin' on the novel. And maybe this means I'll never finish, or I'll never be published, or whatever. I'm okay with that.

  64. Christi Goddard

    I have a file of 'story ideas' that strike me when I'm doing something else. I've juggled more than one writing project at a time, but I don't prefer it. I like to focus on one and get it done, then move to the next. I work faster that way. Plus I'm able to have just one story in my head all day and work through plot holes, visual missing scenes, or realize a mistake I made. Anything new pops up, I jot it down in my 'future book' file and keep trudging with the current one. Life is distracting enough without my creativity pulling me apart.

  65. Kristin Laughtin

    Great post, although to be fair, if you have a laptop, you can write outside on beautiful days. (I've found it sometimes helps me to do so, because it takes away any resentment I might have toward missing the weather.)

    My writing process doesn't work like this very often either, something I've been thinking about lately because I haven't had a Eureka moment for a while. Sometimes there are scenes that flow out of your fingertips and are beautiful and perfect, but the rest of the story around it requires a lot of hard work and BIC-time.

    @Linda Godfrey: LOL! I used to be a substitute teacher, and middle schoolers are why I decided to become a librarian instead. Even if I've put them behind me, that's a good adage to remember.

  66. D. G. Hudson

    B.I.C. must be adhered to at least once a day and something must be accomplished which will advance either the novel in progress or another writing project (short story, blog, or another novel.) That's my writing work ethic.

    I'm embarking on the revision trail, and I'm starting something new – different genre, which is a great incentive to stay in that chair.

    I have to admit that I like going for walks, and getting in touch with the 'outside world'. I get some great ideas simply by observing. Walking also remedies the side effects of too much B.I.C.

    Writing time is a gift I give myself. I don't like to waste it.

  67. WriterGirl

    DMMIJGTSATBCSUITOS. that's definitely my working process too. at least there's an acronym for it now! yay!

  68. Meghan

    Thank heaven I'm not the only one.

  69. ryan field

    "If writing is always fun you may be doing it wrong."

    Ha! This is the best line I've read in a long time.

  70. Anonymous

    BIC-wonders what I can accomplish 40 minutes b/4 LOST starts?

  71. Sommer Leigh

    I actually recently blogged about this very topic in response to feeling frustrated with my writing group because I feel very much on a different commitment level than most people I know who love the idea of writing.

    I decided this: If you want to be a writer, you must write. I think this should be handed out to every English, Poetry, and Creative Writing major on a little business card with gold foil and deckle edge. It is not enough to envision someday being published. You can say, “I really need to start writing that novel/screen play/short story.” But until you actually sit down and write, you are not writing.

    Regardless of how much time, hobbies, and sanity that must be given up, I wouldn't have it any other way. I think that not everyone is truly cut out for this, and that is absolutely ok. Not everyone can be electrical engineers either. Or spinal surgeons or world class chefs. When did writing become an "everyman" profession?

    I'm so inspired and awe struck by those people who sit down and do it, every day, no matter what, and even after the first book is sold and published are still willing to sit down and do it all over again.

  72. Cyndy Aleo-Carreira

    I've gotta disagree with one thing… the weather being nice. One of the best parts about being a freelancer and wannabe novelist is that my office can be anywhere, and when the weather is nice, that's outside. I can sit on my porch in the sunshine, watch the kids run around, and still write. Which is why, even if it doesn't usually pay well, it's still the greatest job in the world.

  73. Curtis

    Great post, Nathan. Writing is painful for me. Painful. But there is nothing else I'd rather do. And it IS baseball season, so that's saying a lot.

  74. Kristi Helvig

    Actually, writing is always fun for me. It's the revising that kills me!

  75. Yamile

    Yes, writing/revising/querying/waiting is hard. But so is life. If you want it bad enough, you'll have to do the work.
    Thanks for the post, Nathan. Brilliant like always.

  76. Lia

    Isn't writing at its worst more fun than reading query letters?

  77. J. T. Shea

    That Golden Gate photo is giving me vertigo. And thoughts of Kim Novak and Barbara Bel Geddes. When I should be thinking about WRITING! Hitchcock was right about blondes.
    And JohnO, it's International Orange. Really. That's the color of the paint. Somewhere in between Nathan's shirt and the Curtis Brown logo. Don't ask me why I know that. More interesting but irrelevant research, probably.

  78. Donna Hole

    Oh; and here I just thought the dang thing would write itself while I was off earning a living.

    My bad.


  79. dendrophilous

    OMGTWISNTBICGOBINTW: "Oh my god the weather is so nice today but I can't go outside because I need to write."

    That's why my scheduled writing time is after dark. (Or lunch break, where "outside" means "surrounded by cement".)

  80. Anonny

    Henceforth my sole writing utensil shall be BIC brand ballpoint pens.

  81. Breeze

    absofrickinlutely Nathan. I'm fortunate that I can write ANYWHERE and ANYTIME however I also write the laptop is my best friend…ya gotta get possessive about your writing time…it's your work!


  82. Leah

    I'm nearing the end of a 100 day commitment to work on the rewrite of my trilogy every day. I'm in the middle of doing some really hard work, putting in a lot of hours. BIC is the only way I'll finish on time. It's good to remember that everyone has to do it.

  83. Dana Fredsti

    Well, it sure as hell isn't always fun for me, especially since I've been seating my butt in the chair (or on the couch) and writing every work night and all day on weekends. I've yet to scream 'MONKEYS!" on the street… or anything else, for that matter. i do think balance is important. Like, getting out on that lovely day for an hour before you start writing, but having the discipline to go back inside.

    Oh, and using an Alphasmart when writing to avoid the temptation of the internet. 🙂

  84. Tabitha

    My 'eureka' moment came the day I realized I could harness the immense amount of stubborness I inherited and put it to good use. Butt has been in chair ever since. 🙂

  85. The Pollinatrix

    Am I the only lunatic here that actually enjoys revising and editing?

  86. Other Lisa

    Related to Anon@2:43, the need for creative downtime…writers need patience. We think of the need for patience when dealing with querying and subbing but I think it applies to the actual writing as well. Sometimes you have to be patient and give the ideas time to come. You have to be patient and not rush through revisions because you are so ready for the book to be finished. It doesn't get finished that way, not properly anyway.

    I see writers who rush the process, and it's a pity. They don't have the patience to make their book as good as it could be. Thoughtful work is often time-consuming.

    This is one I wrestle with all the time.

  87. Christine

    I prefer the term: BICHOK–BUTT IN CHAIR, HANDS ON KEYS.

    And yeah, IWRBPAFIMEBIW–I would rather be poking a fork in my eyeball but I am writing.


  88. Nathan Bransford

    Definitely agree with Other Lisa. I think one of the points of confidence as a writer is knowing that your brain is always working even when you're doing something else and not feeling the pressure to come up with an idea on the spot. Nothing solves a thorny plot or narrative challenge like a little time taking a walk or sleeping or whatever unlocks your brain. It's a tricky balance between forcing yourself to sit down and just write and letting ideas marinate and being patient.

  89. Ca.ll.y

    It reminds me of something my husband said to me the other day.
    "It's a good thing you're married to kind of a jackass, because you need someone to nag you to finish your books."

    I think I'll tell him about BIC; It's less profane.

  90. Ishta Mercurio

    Ha-ha! I totally agree, and thanks for the reminder! Although I think I need my own acronym: BICID. Butt In Chair, Internet Disabled. Blogs like yours are great, but all the reading and commenting sometimes sucks up all my writing time. I need to develop more discipline in that area.

  91. A Novel Woman

    What, you mean there isn't some magic pill we can take?

  92. Whirlochre

    Sadly it's true. I've worn my bum bones down to my ribs this week. or rather — up.

    When finally I rose from my seat last night, a magpie flew through the gap.

  93. Tori

    Great post Nathan. It came at the right time for me. Just started a new project, and right now its fun. I need to remember BIC when writing starts feeling like work. Which is probably going to be soon.

    As someone else on here also mentioned…I think taking breaks from our WIPs is important in the creative process as well.

    Well, I'm off to start another chapter. Hopefully its as easy to write as the last. If not, I will remember BIC. And I will prevail.

  94. Nichole Giles

    Thanks for that. Just what I needed to hear as I'm holding my eyes open with one hand and typing with the other.

    YCNSUYFTC: You can not sleep until you finish this chapter.

    Done! Goodnight.

  95. Natalie

    Perhaps I’m just delusional, but I really think my procrastination time is as important as my writing time if I balance it correctly. My ideas notebook is all crinkly and half the writing is almost illegible due to treadmill, beach and shower scribbling. There are times when I have to acknowledge things have become farcical (I live in the Middle East and actually watched a soap opera in Arabic yesterday- I don’t speak Arabic) but on the whole downtime can be rather fruitful.

    It’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    I will admit, however, that there is nothing quite like forcing yourself to push through a seemingly solid wall and making it out the other side. Then you can start on the next wall.

  96. Pip Hunn

    There's a nail quivering in a metaphorical board somewhere, going
    "Huh? What was that that just smacked my head with such a powerful vigour?"

    Nice article. So what are your writing projects? Sharesies?

    There are a few more acronyms I'd sugest, but I'll limit myself to one –
    Oh, Hang On, I Need To Recode My Entire Website.

    That's me done…. Oh. Wait.

    Shut Up, Kids, I'm Trying To Write – What – Yes, Dear, I'll Go Play With Them.

    There. Done.

  97. jen

    Thanks Nathan , your post reminds me not to get spooked by all the writer /bloggers out there who are constantly purging themselves of fully realised and divinely profound novels etc . The 'butt' should have time to grow and develop long before the ego .

  98. K.L. Brady

    I don't know about other writers but BIC would be a lot easier to accomplish if I had SFF (Supportive Friends and Family). I think I'm the only writer in my family and among my friend circle, so they don't get this whole writing "thing." They don't get why or how you barricade yourself in your house for an entire sunny weekend because you need to get more chapters in. Or why when they call to tell you about their latest drama, you can't always answer the phone. Or why you may be out of touch for periods of time. All this for a "hobby." Sometimes they make you feel bad for not being there or rub it in your face when you missed out. uggghhhh.

    I've come to the conclusion that I need more writers in my life. And I'll need to marry an artist of some kind. Someone who understands and can relate to my BIC insanity.

  99. alfie

    If people can do it really well why is my stuff always awful when I review it? BIC – Butt on seat and COS – Crap on screen!!

  100. Claire Dawn

    The internet was down at work yesterday. So I had oodles of free time and nothing to do. (Essential Japan pays me and often gives me nothing to do.) So I reread my novel, which I'm in the process of editing.

    My neighbour was like "Why would you read your own novel?"

    Clearly, he thinks a novel just jumps out and gets published on a first draft.

  101. Emily Cross

    Thank you for this post Nathan!!

    and the comments too! Many times I've seen on forums etc where people have said a]they absolutely love writing and it's so much fun etc. b] If you're not having fun you should stop writing!

    "If writing is always fun you may be doing it wrong."

    This shall be my refute forever more!!

  102. Rob Crompton

    The eureka moment helps and may even be almost essential. But it's of little value if it occurs somewhere remote from the writing desk so that by the time you get there the mood has gone. So, yes, BIC.
    The best part is when, after the slog of painfully developing an idea into something that has some momentum, the process of writing itself generates the eureka moments.

  103. Kate Evangelista

    I get what you mean! Every time I put together a query letter and press the send button, I always get so stressed that I feel like puking. Man, anyone who thinks writing can be easy has some more thinking to do.

  104. Renee Miller

    I find writing the rough draft fun. You don't have to force me to sit in the chair on a nice day. I want to do it. If my kids and the dogs and the damn telemarketers that call 700 times a day would leave me alone, it would be even better.

    As someone said above, the part that isn't fun is rewriting. That's when I have to force myself to sit down and do it. The writing part, yes anyone can do it. But only the truly devoted (and perhaps talented) can sit down and rewrite it into something worth reading.

  105. Botogol

    Philip Pullman said

    I don't know where my ideas come from, but I do know where they come *to* : they come to my desk; and if I'm not sitting at my desk, well then they go away again

  106. Diane

    I've also seen BICHOK around the interwebs a lot (Bum in chair, hands on keyboard) but I quite like Bryce Courtenay's phrase "bum glue."

  107. Megan

    Thanks Nathan. You summed up my vibe this morning. I'm up early to revise and…not so into it. But I love Jane Yolen. And she's right. Right? I'm pretty sure. She must be. Right?

  108. Misa

    I've been suffering from DMMIJGTSATBCSUITOS a lot recently.

    It sucks.

  109. Sam Albion

    I'm sure the greatest strength of a writer should be… talent…

    as my Momma used to say- "ten dollars love you long time"… hang on… as my Momma used to say "you can't make a silk purse from a sows' ear"…

    unfortunately, my greatest strength is… producing cabbage scented farts so strong my neighbours occasionaly call in the bomb squad. Apparently the stench is so great next-door-but-one thought I was producing mustard gas, and they've started greeting me in the street, not with "Yo Sam", but "Yo, O-Sama"… Maybe I should trim my beard…

  110. Adventures in Children's Publishing

    Love all the new acronyms. I have adopted Butt in Chair myself. Frequently. But the toughest part of BIC is the closely-related Butt in Chair without Clicking Out of Word to Twitter, Blog, Facebook or Email. BUCWCOOWTTBFOE is complicated by the fact that I love reading entertaining posts like this one on how to write more productively.

  111. GuyStewart

    If I were a crowd, I'd be going wild right now.

    This was perfect.

  112. Thermocline

    I must be revising right because it ain't no fun … at all. Ugh. I want to be done.

  113. Ishta Mercurio

    Or how about IKTKARHBIRHTW: I know the kids are really hungry, but I really have to write.

  114. K.L. Brady

    @Mary MacDonald–that is a great link to the Write or Die Dr. Wicked software. I'm buying the desktop version and I'm going to post it on my blog. Great find!

  115. adpurple

    Jerkwad zombie vampires. Hmm…

  116. Anonymous

    Other Lisa, Natalie, Nathan: this is Anon@2:43. Thanks, you've all expanded on what I was trying to say. It's easy to become so obsessed with the BIC mentality that you burn yourself out. As Other Lisa said, don't rush the creative process. Impatience can suck all the joy out of writing. Give your brain a rest when necessary. Not only will your work will improve, but your overall well-being will, too.

    The tricky part is separating the times when you are just being lazy from the times when you honestly need to take a break. It's a lot like a gym membership. There are times when you may flirt with the idea of skipping the gym, but force yourself to go and are glad you did once you get there. Then there times when you know you need to stay home and rest because you're truly exhausted and would probably lift incorrectly and hurt yourself. Separating the two times is where the self-discipline kicks in.

  117. Leis

    That goes to show my Willpower could use a bump (or two). Or is it my Faith that needs it? No matter, I've not written a single creative string of words other than a couple of transcendental poems (where's that market?).

    But that's not what is bothering me today. What is bothering me today is THE ROAD: A Comedic Translation (Part 5) posted on The Millions. Part 5, mind you! Why oh why?

    Needless to say I do not see the comedic/entertaining value therein, rather find such work sacrilegious. If they (any 'they') will poke fun at Cormac McCarthy's best work to date… why write at all?

  118. Sheri Larsenッ

    OM…with summer on its way, your OMGTWISNTBICGOBINTW totally got me!! And with the kids bellowing at the top of their lungs it will be hard. I'll just have to exercise BIC. ";-)

  119. Cheryl

    Yes yes yes, BIC every night. Even if productivity doesn't rear it's beautiful head, I assume the position!! Thanks again for encouraging all of us.

  120. lotusgirl

    There's no substitute for hard work.

  121. Kelly Wittmann

    Another great post, and you couldn't be more right. The best feeling in the world for a writer is that "After BIC" feeling.

  122. Brent Peterson

    Love it. My new motto! May I suggest BIC be coupled with QYB for BICQYB… But In Chair Quit Your Browser.

    I need more willpower to keep myself from surfing. I've had to resort to unplugging my internet connection. Also, love the bridge visual – that's exactly what it feels like – Brent

  123. Haley

    And this is why I love this blog. When I'm feeling like a failure, Nathan shows me that I am not alone – that others are going through the same process as me. Thanks!

  124. Simon C. Larter

    "If writing is always fun you may be doing it wrong."

    Perfect quote. Sometimes it hurts. When it hurts is when I feel like I'm doing my best work.

  125. Glynis

    I can do the BIC. I've been a want-to-be-writer for decades. I just wish I could get past the ugly doubts and insecurities.

  126. Julie Hedlund

    Too hilarious! Thanks for making me laugh today. Nice antidote for those days when I spend hours (and I do mean hours) on just a handful of verses.

  127. Laura Marcella

    I'm constantly reminding myself to get my BIC! Sometimes (ok, all the time!) I want my words to come out perfectly in all the right places the first time. Since that never happens, I struggle to get my rear on my zebra-striped chair to write no matter how I'm feeling.

    BIC. BIC. BIC. Repeat! Oh, all right I'll get back to writing now. 🙂

  128. Elspeth Antonelli

    DMMIJGTSATBCSUITOS: "Don't mind me, I'm just going to stare at this blank computer screen until I think of something."

    This is me, 98% of the time – or at least, it FEELS like 98%. Realistically? Probably 97%.

    Oh well.

  129. David Kubicek

    Strangely, I've never heard it put like that, but from now on BIC will have a place on a sign above my computer.

  130. Olleymae

    Ah, such good advice. Now I just need this telepathically sent to my brain every morning when I wake up.

    Mary McDonald,what an awesome site. I'd never heard of Write or Die, but I just went there on kamakazie/evil for ten minutes and it does delete your words! But I got alot out of my brain, so it was wonderful!

    Scarlettprose, you are right on. No one wants BGB! Excercize is awesome for inspiration and calorie burning.

  131. Scott

    Writing for me is like treasure hunting. You do a lot of digging and sift a lot of dirt, but inside you have a hunch there's treasure "in these parts". Then, you hear the metallic sound of iron on precious metal and off you go collecting whatever it is you've found. Sometimes it's close to what you were looking for, other times not so much. But it's all valuable to some degree, nonetheless.

    That's why I have to thank you, Nathan, for helping me pull together what I've been trying to say with my latest book. It wasn't exactly from your message, but you mentioned "willpower" and that got me digging around the word. What I found underneath was very, very valuable.

    If you dig enough, you find. The more you find, the more you know there is more to find. That not only gets your butt in the chair, it makes you carve out the most precious commodity of all––time––to do it.

  132. Kimberly Kincaid

    Okay, I'm late to the party (again)- I actually had my BIC in the emergency room yesterday with one of my kidlings (she's fine, and learned a valuable lesson: playing human bobsled in a laundry basket is darn fun…but not smart).

    I read that when Sara Gruen was writing Water for Elephants, at one point she literally locked herself in a closet with her laptop for hours on end so she could work on it. It was that, she said, or not work on it at all. Butt in Chair in Closet (BICIC!) worked for her.

    When I tell people that I write novels, they get all excited at the sheer glamour of it, which kills me. Once I tell them that I do the majority of my writing in my pajamas, with coffee stains on my notes, my hair in a sloppy ponytail and my ratty slippers on, it loses its charm for them. But not for me. That's what makes it so wonderful. And awful. And everything in between.

    Oh- the line about writing being fun all the time? Yeah. Totally on a Post It over my monitor. That's ripped from the fabric of sheer awesome, right there 🙂

  133. Nick

    Must admit I do not do BIC enough. But for now…eh. Writing's important but not utmost priority. Another 2.5 or so months and there shall be a summer consisting largely of writing. And after, well, we'll see how university goes.

  134. kathrynjankowski

    Internet hive mind! (I just posted about this.)

    Willpower, stamina, resilience. Just a few of the qualities that help you keep going.

  135. Anonymous

    Hmm. Was waiting for the part about then needing willpower to withstand all the "I regret that" messages or weeks of waiting for no response at all from literary agents…

  136. MB Dabney

    You are right, of course. I didn't see your post until today but it was what I needed yesterday, a day I suffered through a pity-party. Oh boo-woo.
    So today I decided that yesterday was a Personal Day, and today I am back to work. Writing is a job, and you can't get it done unless you show up for work.
    Today is a work day.

  137. Seven N Blue

    If writing is fun you may be doing it wrong…he he…or something like that…

    Yeap! For me, BIC is the hardest but once I am sitting and write my first paragraph, I am off and I just can't believe I was having a BIC crisis just five minutes ago!

    Glad to hear others feel the same! Yay!

  138. mcpolish

    So what you're trying to say is that I can no longer use the excuse of being distracted by shiny things? That's it's really just all up to me and my bum and my chair and my computer?

    Le sigh.

    Am going to need a comfier chair cushion….looks like me and my chair are about to become one.

  139. Anahita

    I don’t quite understand this post. Maybe it is humorous but I don’t get it. Writing has always been fun for me. Although it is a short while that I’m thinking of publishing, writing itself has been my happy place since I was ten, and I’m thirty seven now. I don’t recall one moment that writing was dull or that I would rather do something else. I have to summon willpower to get up and do something else. Whatever you say I’m doing wrong, it’s so delicious I’m going to keep doing it wrong!

  140. The Red Angel

    You make me feel MUCH better about myself as a writer, Nathan. :] I absolutely love writing and always have, but there are just some days when I simply don't feel like doing it. I get guilty about that sometimes, but your post makes me feel a lot better about that.

    And I do have those EUREKA! I'VE GOT IT! moments but they don't come around TOO often. So it is very special indeed when they do. 🙂 And then I write right like crazy.

  141. jessjordan

    A. MEN. Writing has been one cardboard cookie after another for me lately. My muse has taken an extended vacay and left me here without her. Unacceptable, I tell you! If I wait for her to be back, there may be 200 books like mine published before I even finish my rough draft, so onward I go. BIC. Yeah, I need to practice more of that. Well, more BIC, less BICIFOT (Butt In Chair In Front Of Television).

  142. Andrea Franco-Cook

    Great post Nathan. You captured the true journey of a writer. I can relate to every word.

  143. Christina

    The complete phrase as I've heard it (and it's rather a mantra of mine) is BIC, HOK, TAM: Butt In Chair, Hands On Keys, Typing Away Madly

    Your letter combos are hilarious. As to masochism. Well…yes. But if you can be talked out of being a writer you shouldn't be a writer. Creating worlds where your characters live and breathe is an amazing feeling that can't be matched. All the masochism in the world is worth one moment of that sort of amazing.

    One of my favorite quotes on being creative is: "It's tougher than Himalayan yak jerky in January. But, as any creative person will tell you, there are days when there's absolutely nothing sweeter than creating something from nothing." I don't think anyone has said it better than Richard Krzemien. Anyhow, from reading your blog I thought you would appreciate the quote as well.

    Take care!

  144. Betsy Ashton

    I agree that writing is hard work. And that even the days when all I produce is drivel and where the delete key is my friend, a bad day of writing is better than wishing I had written. I keep my butt on the ball (balance ball, no chair) and fingers on keyboard. Hey, when nothing is going smoothly, I can always bounce on the ball and pretend I'm riding a horse!

  145. Christina

    Hah!! this is so true! 😉

  146. Jourdan Alexandra

    I must say, I'm so grateful that you and other agents and writers make posts like this. It just reminds me that I'm not alone. I've been editing my MS for the past six months and I've been wanting to jump off a cliff I hate it so much, but posts like this one remind me how much I truly love it and that, like you said, if writing is always fun then you may not be doing it right.

    Thanks Nathan!

  147. insidethewritersstudio

    Okay, I can't help it. For a visual representation of the problem of willpower for writers, you MUST watch our "Inside the Writers' Studio" video called "Writing, Time Management, and You."

    I promise you will relate.

  148. Dawn

    Bryce Courtney calls it BUM GLUE.


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Hi, I’m Nathan. I’m the author of How to Write a Novel and the Jacob Wonderbar series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and I’m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams. Let me help you with your book!

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