Friday, January 4, 2019

Writer's Boot Camp

I seldom make extreme statements, but here’s one I can make without fear of contradiction: I never keep New Year’s resolutions.

I’ve made them, of course—lots of them—with good intentions and firm resolve, but I’ve never kept at them very long. Yes, I’ve tried starting over. And over. And over. Yet none of those brave restarts have resulted in a permanent change of my life. If you’ve had better success with your resolutions, more power to you (as if you need it), but I confess that I haven’t. Never have.

This is why writing coach Rachel Federman believes we’re not likely to become productive writers through resolutions. It's too easy to be distracted by other important things. Instead we need to go full-bore into writing every day, day after day, like Army recruits in boot camp.

Soldiers in boot camp don’t expect to begin their training when conditions are just right. Conditions in boot camp are far from “just right.” The weather is hot and wet, the mosquitoes and deer flies bite voraciously, and the latrines are better left to your imagination!

These soldiers learn combat skills by engaging in combat all day long. ­­They have no higher priority, though they certainly have plenty of distractions, and we can count on the same. Federman says:

Count on writing when someone’s asking what’s for dinner and jackhammers are pounding away out your window. Count on writing on the back of a stained notepad with a pencil that really needs to be sharpened and is barely showing up. Count on writing when you have company. Counting on writing when you desperately want to crawl under the covers. Count on writing when you are getting nauseous on a bus to Boston. Writing is the way you keep yourself on the path. And that path is more writing…[1]

You may be tempted to say, I’ll buy a copy of Federman’s book and learn more about this“boot camp” idea. Beware: Federman’s book is nearly impossible to find in the USA because it was published in England. 

That’s OK. It’s not the book you need, but the experience of writing. Every day. Every night. For a month. And when you reach the end of that month, you’ll wake the next day hankering to write more. That’s why you go to boot camp.

[1]Rachel Federman, Writer’s Boot Camp (London: HarperCollins, 2016), 19.

Joe Allison writes both fiction and nonfiction, and has been a member of the Indiana chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. He lives in Anderson, IN, with his wife Maribeth and daughter Heather.


  1. I'm trying to always keep a notepad in the car, in my purse, so I call pull it out as soon as I feel the need.

  2. For years, I carried a small hand recorder for walks and driving in lieu of a notepad. I probably need to go back to that.

  3. Great idea, Linda. We never know when an extraordinary idea will flicker in the brain. But notice: Boot camp teaches us how to write on a daily schedule, even when we don't have a fresh idea or feel inspired.