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  • Writer's picturejmalexanderwrites

Spend Everything You've Got

Updated: Sep 16, 2022

Spend it. Spend it all.

Have you ever heard this advice? Years ago I attended writing classes in New York City at The Writers Studio. If you love literary fiction and poetry, this school offers fantastic in-person and online courses, some of the best I’ve ever taken. And while I’m at it, I’ve also taken classes at Gotham Writers Workshop, another excellent school for all types of writing, including genre, comedy, screen writing, etc.

Now that I’ve plugged my favorite schools, back to my point.

In one of these classes a student asked if he should save particular details for a future story. At the time, I couldn’t relate because all of my story ideas were so different from one another. I didn’t understand what he meant. But as I continued to practice and learn craft nuances, his question began to make more sense. Character traits, descriptions, gestures, all could be classified as “details to be saved for a future story.” The advice the instructor gave was brilliant. She said, “No. Spend everything you’ve got on your current story.”

After taking more classes and gaining a bit more experience, I realized something. The student’s question came from a place of lack. Now, that I could relate to. What if I can’t come up with another story idea ever again? What if I run out of plot ideas, characters, descriptions, great opening lines? The instructor, with her accumulated wisdom and commitment to writing, understood that once the creative door was opened, once the commitment was made to practicing story craft, ideas flowed more easily: she could be completely confident in her response. I’m guessing most writers at one time or another feel as if they will never write another story or novel as good as the one they are currently writing. I think I feel this almost weekly. But the world is abundant and ever-changing, and ideas are everywhere. All I have to do is open myself up to them, open myself up to the voice inside. Nature spends it all, always. It never holds back, and is constantly creating. I am a part of that wellspring.

It feels good to spend it all. It pushes me to better myself, top what I wrote before. I may not always achieve my goal when I want to achieve it. I may plateau at times. Then one day I’ll write something that feels like the Muse is guiding my hand. Those days come infrequently, of course. Mostly, it’s just me, black tea, and the computer keys.

Sometimes something wonderful happens.

Not long ago, I had a breakthrough. One of my stories was recognized. I can’t talk about it just now, but suffice to say it involved an accomplished writer and one of my short stories. I’ll share one day, but what I can tell you is I spent it all on that story. I’d thought about waiting to use some of my ideas, but then remembered that great advice and poured everything into it. Half the time I didn’t know where I was going, I just followed the Muse and wrote my heart out. At the end, I wasn’t even sure it was me on the page. But it was. It was everything I had inside.

Until next time, Spend It All!



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