Just Sit and Write

by Julie Metz

After my husband’s sudden death and the subsequent revelation of his affairs several friends suggested that I write a book about my experiences. I was not a professional writer, so initially I dismissed the idea.

Some time later I ran into a woman I will call Laura, a writer I knew in my town. Laura invited me to lunch at a local diner.

Over tuna melts, she said “I hear you’re writing a book.”

I was surprised but then realized that the friends who had made the original suggestion hadn’t taken my original “no” for an answer.

Once again I said I wasn’t planning to write a book.

Laura’s manner is something like the most kindly but rigorous teacher you ever had in high school. She sent me home with advice that sounded like a doctor’s prescription.

“Sit at your writing desk for twenty minutes a day, she insisted. “And call me next week and we’ll have another lunch.”

In the beginning it was more like two or three days a week, but gradually writing became a daily habit. I enjoyed our talks over tuna melts and to this day I associate this particular sandwich with my early writing times. If I need writing comfort food, I head straight to a diner. Tuna and cheese with a grilled tomato on toasted rye—that works for me.

In the end this remains the best advice I received. Just sit and write, whether you feel like it or not. Know that you can always throw out whatever you hate later. No one has to read your first drafts. The writing process won’t always be easy but with diligence it will become an essential part of life.

To this I would add that it is important to read good books in the genre you are working in—excellent reading will inspire and instruct.

Julie Metz is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir PERFECTION, which was a 2009 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection. The recipient of a MacDowell fellowship, she lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.