Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Trick to Writing – Revealed

Performance Artist, Johan Lorbeer
"How do you solve the Rubik's Cube?"

I hear that a lot.  But most people really don't want to hear the answer.  They'll make some quip about solving it when they were younger by tearing off the stickers or simply giving up out of frustration.

They'd rather believe the illusion that it's nearly impossible to solve.  After all, there are 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 possible configurations.  Lottery odds don't deal with numbers so large!

Let me level with you.

There is no big secret.  But, once I describe one of the countless methods to solve the Rubik's Cube, the mystique wears off and I often hear a contemptuous, "Oh, it's just a trick?"

No, it's not just a trick.  But in hindsight, any elegant answer to a complex problem seems like a trick.

With the Rubik's Cube, if you understand a few basic concepts and rules it can be rather straightforward and intuitive to solve.  However, depending on your approach, it can also appear quite complex.  Some such methods designed for speed-solving require the memorization of several hundred algorithms, or seemingly magic moves, that will have a particular effect on a portion of the Rubik's Cube.  For any non-speedcuber, such a technique can appear to be nothing more than a gimmick.

The reality is, no matter the approach, the Rubik's Cube does not solve itself with some hushed secret trick we cubers don't want you to know about.

What about writing?  Tell me the secret trick to writing.

Johan Lorbeer

The only trick is to get your butt into the chair.  Write.  Just write.  That's it.  Write!

You must do the work.  There is no magic formula to help you write your story.  There are no algorithms to memorize.  There is no other real trick.

All the talk about you being a plotter or a pantser, (writing by 'the seat of your pants',) doesn't really matter if you don't actually do the writing.  So, that's it.  The real trick to writing – write.

Perhaps you've heard this before:  the best person to write your story is you.  In fact, the only person to write your story is you.  What are you waiting for?  Forget about trying to find the latest secrets and shortcuts, get your butt in the chair already!


What gets your butt into the chair to write?


  1. I've thought about getting a Rubik's cube a lot lately (and I'm just probably going to get one tomorrow, yes for sure), I had one when I was young (like ancient times ago, haha) but never really grew fond of it.

    Over here, there's a show on TV where people come to show their talents. Last year, this young (I think he was about 15 years, cannot remember) kid (Simon Westlund) won the whole thing by solving Rubik's cube BLINDFOLDED (time: about 1 min). Most impressive. And also inspiring.

    And as for the writing part, well. Sad to say, someone always has to hurt me in order to get me creative. So lately, I've been writing a lot. But this time, I might not stop when feeling better :), no I'll just go on (even though there's really not that much to tell).

    Great post!

    1. I think we are creative all the time, but sometimes we need to be nudged in some way to express it. I hope you do continue to write. The trick is to keep going whether you feel like it or not. If you need pain as a muse, maybe try an uncomfortable chair, it works for me ;-)

      As for blindsolving of the Rubik's Cube, I was really heartbroken a couple of years ago when the record times plummeted below 45 seconds. It certainly is impressive when blindfolded cube masters can solve it faster than I can sighted. But it did feel like a huge accomplishment when I figured out a method that worked for myself. I never got faster than 5 minutes though.

  2. I love this! Now you're starting to sound like me, just replace "writing" with "reading" and it's done.

    I get a lot of quality butt-in-chair time for first draft writing, it's revisions that kill me. I daydream about the revisions all day long, but then when I actually have time to sit down and do them, I find myself writing new material instead of focusing on revising.

    I've been making micro-goals for myself lately, and that's been helping: "Revise another chapter or section by 5 PM today, and then you can read more," that sort of thing. I'm getting there, slowly but surely.

    1. I'm the polar opposite with revising. I love to work with a wad of clay that resembles something in my head. My problem is I tend to work and work the clay, revising it and then waver about moving on to something new. That's where the goals and deadlines come in. I also think that's why NaNoWriMo was such a huge accomplishment for me.

      Thanks for your comments :-)

    2. Oh, I wish I was better with revisions.

      All the magic happens for me during the actual writing, and then I crave it when I'm revising, so I usually put off revisions in favor of writing something new. I'm slowly getting there, though, and the more I revise the more I realize that there's a different kind of magic to it, it just takes a bit longer to reveal itself.

      Maybe this is why I always loved mixing up a solved Rubrik's Cube, but never had the patience to try and re-solve it. I swapped those stickers so many times they lost their stick. I hear they don't make them with stickers anymore, tricky tricky.

    3. Lori, most puzzles still come with stickers. But not to worry, you can order replacement stickers. Full disclosure, I have spent at least one weekend night scraping off old glue and lining up a matrix of new stickers on my cube. My life is a party ;-)

  3. Getting my butt in the chair is more difficult than I imagined it would be. There are so many other online activities we "should" be doing according to the platform-building experts. I have to remind myself that I did not get into writing novels to build an online platform. Telling the story should be my #1 priority.

    After reading your post, I'm adjusting my schedule to allow for more butt-in-chair-to-write time. Thanks, Jason!

    1. That's right, Mindi! As much as I selfishly enjoy having you here...Get Back to Writing! :-)

  4. I'm getting my butt in the chair right now :)

    1. So peer pressure works for you then? ;-) Thanks for stopping by, Angela.