"It makes getting out of bed so much easier" – One bestseller's trick for never getting stalled on the page

This year, we probably got the most nerdy literary joy out of creating September’s Big 10 issue of WD, for which the editor of the magazine and I had a chance to get in touch with a handful of our favorite writers. We asked each of them for a Top 10 list on some facet of writing, and the awesome Erik Larson (The Devil in the White City, Thunderstruck) delivered his Top 10 Essentials to a Writer’s Life. One of those is the latest in Promptly’s Top 20 Tips From WD in 2010 series. A regular prompt follows (and a swag drawing is on its way Friday). Here’s to the power of the subconscious.

No. 9: Snooze as Muse
Knowing Where to Stop: My favorite ‘trick’ is to stop writing at a point where I know that I can pick up easily the next day. I’ll stop in midparagraph, often in midsentence. It makes getting out of bed so much easier, because I know that all I’ll have to do to be productive is complete the sentence. And by then I’ll be seated at my desk, coffee and Oreo cookie at hand, the morning’s inertia overcome. There’s an added advantage: The human brain hates incomplete sentences. All night my mind will have secretly worked on the passage and likely mapped out the remainder of the page, even the chapter, while simultaneously sending me on a dinner date with Cate Blanchett.”
—Erik Larson, “The WD Interview Takes Ten,” September 2010 (check out the rest of the issue here)

[And, as a bonus—]

“Physical Diversion: When I stop writing, I need an escape—something that takes me out of the work and wholly into another realm. My main diversion is tennis, though I also find cooking to be very helpful. Something about chopping onions is very restorative. Dogs are helpful, too. They force you to go outside and confront the weather, although my dog did once eat a 19th-century edition of a British physicist’s autobiography.”

Image: Joe Mabel [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

* * *

WRITING PROMPT: Quotes/Clichés/Sayings
Feel free to take the following prompt home or post a response (500
words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional
around-the-office swag drawings. If you’re having trouble with the
captcha code sticking, e-mail your piece and the prompt to me at
writersdigest@fwmedia.com, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll
make sure it gets up.

Start a story with one of your least favorite quotes, clichés or sayings. End it with one of your favorites.

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8 thoughts on “"It makes getting out of bed so much easier" – One bestseller's trick for never getting stalled on the page

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  3. Jennifer

    “’What if it’s true?’ I’d like to know how many times in your life you think you’ve heard that one,” I asked the man, the legend – Christopher Hitchens. What I did to deserve the opportunity to interview him, I’ll never know. It’s all I can do to pay attention to what he’s saying instead of –

    “…to count. It’s a staple of the usual ignorant dogma that’s–“

    Thank God I’m taping this – "Thank God", what if I had just said something like that out loud to this man? My stupid brain is still so steeped in all of that religious drivel. When does it end? Oh! That’s a good question. No, he’s probably been asked about this before. I should have done more research. I’ll stick with the questions I’ve –

    “…used to it.”

    “And Mr. Hitchens, can you tell me about some of the most important things that you have learned from your many debates? What lessons have you been able to glean, if any, from these experiences?”

    “That’s a very interesting question. Not much. But I’d have to say that, in most -“

    Look at his face, of course that wasn’t interesting. At least he’s patient enough to humor me. How could I blow this? The man is clearly about to keel over at any minute and I’m just sitting–

    “…but, don’t you think?”

    I laugh, nod in agreement, and touch his arm.

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  4. Mark James

    Out of the frying pan into the fire. I don’t know why I was thinking that. I thought it was stupid. I like my hotel room upgraded. Trouble, not so much.

    Prison isn’t as bad it looks on TV. You know how “Day in A Cubicle Gulag” shows prisoners fighting over food and clawing each others’ eyes out for desks by the window? It’s not like that. You sit where the Row Wardens tell you, or forget about frying pans and fires. They will make you sorry you ever breathed.

    So yesterday, I’m in my cubicle, racking up production. I’d answered five hundred e-mails. I only had another eighty to go before I could go to my cell for the night. Jalin was my Row Warden. He was big and mean and he liked it when his row fell short on production. It gave him a chance to upgrade our troubles. I only had about an hour to go, when Sade (yeah, that’s his real name) went walking down my row.

    I don’t think that man can do right by his wife if he hasn’t screwed someone over before he goes home from Prison Office. I ducked my head down and kept right on typing. “Hey,” he said, stopping at my desk, pretending to be my best bud, “you still stupid or did you move up to idiot?”

    I’d tried, but I couldn’t imagine him out of his Prison Guard suit and tie uniform, and at home relaxing with the wife and kids. What did he say, “Hey honey, get the hell over here before I kick your pretty little ass?”

    I kept on typing. The counter at the bottom of my screen clicked over to 503.

    “I’m talking to you Prisoner 2877982,” Sade said.

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    There’s an old saying that all is fair in love and war. So when I cooked up my pot of chili to enter in the first annual Oneida Chili War, I had no qualms about stirring in my secret ingredient, marijuana. The weed gave my chili a hint of nutty flavor, and inspired the judges to eat a whole lot more of it, and everything else.

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    Banjo broke free from Sheriff McKenzie. He ran between Jimmy Crane’s legs, leapt onto the stage, and flattened me. Chili splattered everywhere. At first everyone was dumbfounded at Banjo’s behavior, but then the judges, and the Sheriff put two and two together, and I got thrown in the clink.

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    The tires spun freely, digging the car even deeper into the snow-filled ditch.

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    That must be the least helpful phrase in the English language.
    After a long weekend with the in-laws, braving the icy road home
    seemed well worth the risk. She disagreed.

    “You know we’ll end up in a ditch somewhere.”

    John shoved open the door and stepped into the frigid air.
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    comforting sound after Meredith’s damning words.
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    John had to admit he was genuinely glad to see him.

    Meredith shivered by the side of the road as the two men
    hooked a chain to the axle of the stuck car.

    “Sorry about this.”

    John gruffly apologized for the inconvenience he had caused.

    “Glad to help.” Meredith’s father was very gracious about it.
    “I would have done the same thing. It’s good to see you folks,
    but three days is plenty long enough!”

    John laughed out-loud.
    A wink from his father-in-law offered a
    friendship John greatly appreciated…especially now.

    The trusty Jeep had no problem pulling the car
    out of the ditch. John’s push from behind was more
    for Meredith’s benefit than to offer any real help.

    “Thank you for saving us Daddy!” Meredith said sweetly,
    tossing a smug look in John’s direction.
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    John’s heart skipped a beat.
    He would rather walk home than face his mother-in-law.

    “No, you’d be safer to just go on to your house now.”

    John hid a smile as Meredith’s father helped her into the car.

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    John waved gratefully as they pulled onto the main road
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    He gave a sigh of relief,remembering his favorite
    version of an old saying.

    “All’s well that ends.”