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Published February 17th 2016
The No-Nonsense, No BS Guide to Getting Words on the Page
The first paragraph of the description for Shut up and Write: The No-Nonsense, No B.S. Guide to Getting Words on the Page states that: "with her characteristic humour, practicality, and hard-earned wisdom, Mridu Khullar Relph shows you how to write anything -- and finish it."
Shut up and Write: The No-Nonsense, No B.S. Guide to Getting Words on the Page
So does the book live up to its claims?
The book contains a wealth of information drawn from Relph's 15-year career as a writer and journalist, divided into 29 short, easy-to-read chapters. The chapter titles all follow the same format: 'Pick your …'. For example, the first five chapters are called Pick your – beliefs, – excuse, – place, – days, and – time. Naming the chapters this way implies that we have full control over our writing process and, in essence, Relph's book is about how to get out of our own way and get down to writing.
Relph writes in a conversational, easy to read style and, refreshingly, doesn't profess to know it all. As she says, "There are only so many ways writers can put off writing the things that are important to them, and I've done them all. Unlike most authors and 'gurus' of the internet, I don't come to you from a place of deep understanding, of having figured it all out. I come to you from the trenches."
To make it easy for ourselves to start writing, she recommends always writing in a particular place and creating rituals around the writing process to help us get into the flow. But all writers know that starting the process is only half the battle, and the book contains some interesting ideas for keeping ourselves writing when the going gets tough.
If we find ourselves looking for something else to do, we can use 'productive procrastination' – avoiding doing something by doing something else. That's where having several projects on the go at the same time comes in handy; when we get fed up of one we can work on another for a while.
If we're finding it difficult to get past the blank page, three strategies to overcome writers' block are suggested: write through it, figure out what's holding you back, and deal with your inner critic. Relph even offers techniques for silencing the latter.
There are also some great quotes in the book, one that particularly resonated with me is: 'Productivity is not getting stuff done. It is getting the right stuff done.' Sometimes, on a big assignment it is difficult to know where to begin and what the 'right stuff' is. By breaking projects down into manageable chunks we can work out what the next step should be and put a specific action on our to-do list.
Tracking our writing time and progress towards our goals keeps us productive and on target. Once we've decided how many words we can realistically write a day, Relph shows how to break down a project to estimate how long it is likely to take, and draw up a production schedule to help us stay on track. She also suggests rewarding ourselves for achieving milestones and creating consequences for not finishing projects.
Ultimately, the only factor that separates successful writers from unsuccessful writers is that successful writers do not give up. In this book Mridu Khullar Relph tries her damnedest to ensure we won't give up, offering advice and practical strategies to inspire us to start writing, and support us to keep writing every step of the way until THE END.
Mridu Khullar Relph
For me the book lived up to its claims. I found it very motivating — so much so that, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to sign off and start writing my daily quota of words.
Shut Up and Write' is released on 18 February as an e-book. It is available from the Amazon Australia store and all online bookstores for $11.99. Although the book is currently only available as an e-book, there are plans to launch print and audio versions later this year.
Cate W received an advance review copy of the book.