One of the most frequent (and let’s face it, pompous) comments I received from acquaintances when my first novel came out was, “I’ve got a book in me.”
My reaction to this comment varied from puzzlement (Why would this person say that to me at my book launch?) to feeling affronted (Seriously?! You’re an engineer, not a writer.) to boredom (Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard this before.). It was an irritant in all the excitement of getting published. But ultimately, I realized that none of these would-be authors’ declarations meant anything.
Why? Because their books all remained inside them.

To be a writer, you must write. Not just in your head (although that certainly happens, at least to me), but on a page or screen. And doing that involves sitting down at regular intervals to faithfully relate the story given to you. As prolific author Jane Yolen has famously directed, that means “butt in chair.”

Writing, as students of the Hamline writing programs know, is work. It’s a skill that you must practice to improve. For many of us, that means writing on a daily basis.

Why daily? Because the more you practice, the more familiar you become with your tools: words. You learn how they best fit into phrases, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, complete novels. Occasional writing too often results in flaccid, lazy prose. Daily writing results in prose that is strong, fluid, and graceful. Instead of stuttering across a page, words become elegant and storytelling vivid.

That’s when the magic happens (and we all believe in magic, don’t we?). When you write daily, no matter how short a time, the story rises to meet you the next time you sit down, waiting for you and eager to be told. Even when you’re not physically writing, the story bubbles on the back burner of your mind, becoming a delicious stew of character, plot, and pacing. The story becomes a part of your conscious and subconscious mind, ready to pour onto the page (or screen).

Writing is work, yes. Writing is practice, of course.

Writing is not something everyone does or even can do. If you are a writer, you’ve given your mind, your hope, your schedule over to telling your stories. You’ve set aside time to get to know your characters just as you set aside time for friends and family. 

Do you have a book in you? Prove yourself a writer. Set aside time daily or weekly. Let your story rise to meet you. Let it become a deep part of you. And then, let your story flow onto the page and from there, into the world.

But first, butt in chair.

Georgia Beaverson is a July 2012 graduate of the MFAC program. She lives in southern Wisconsin.