Sunday, September 23, 2012

Write Like a Rock Star

I'm pleased as punch to introduce our R8 pals to my good friend, Regina Verow. Reg and I met in the graduate film and video production program at American University lo these many years ago. Our paths have led us away from the movie biz, but I'm happy to report what brought us there in the first place - a love of story - hasn't much changed. The how of it all, yeah, that's morphed a bit for both of us. For instance, now Regina writes like a Rock Star. How cool is that? 

I am fortunate that I hang around with a lot of seriously creative people. A good many of those people are writers but writers, if I may make a bold generality here, are an angst-filled group. (I can make this statement because I am one of those angst-filled human beings.) We worry about everything when it comes to our writing, right? We worry we aren’t writing enough, that what we’re writing isn’t good, that our books will never sell and even if they sell, our second book won’t, so why bother writing the first, etc., etc., etc.  Among the various types of writers I know, there is one group, however, I’ve noticed that particularly approaches writing with a different, less-angst slant. These are my songwriting friends.  Which is not to say they aren’t angst-filled; they just manifest it in other ways, like with performance anxiety or recording an album over and over for just the right “sound” or obsessing over picking out fabric swatches for the new tour bus. But I digress…

I have to admit being not so secretly jealous of the way my songwriting friends look at writing. While I wouldn’t say it’s an effortless process for them, they definitely get out of their own way better than I sometimes do. So after studying my song-writing friends and asking questions about what they do and how they do it, (I knew my Anthropology degree would come in handy one day) I’ve come up with three techniques you can use if you too want to write like a real rock star.

#1) Write Every Day
My friend Pete spent a year writing a song every day. It didn’t even have to be a good song. He just had to write one a day. Then write another song the next day. And so on for 365 days in a row. At first it was very slow going. Songs took hours to write. By the end of the year though, he could churn out a song faster than I could empty the dishwasher. By doing this, he got out of his own way and learned to dispel both the anxiety surrounding the writing process as well as his inner critic. He had no expectations for his songs except that he would write them. Clearly they weren’t all winners, but out of them came a few good ones…and the ability to write freely. 

Write every day to blast through anxiety and get that critic out of the way.  Which leads me to…

#2) Don’t Worry About Whether Your Words Are “Usable”
I hear this from a lot of my writing clients, especially those who are unsure about the direction their story is taking. They don’t want to write anything unless they know exactly where their story is going because they don’t want to write unusable words in what little time they have to write anyway. They have day jobs and families and responsibilities and darn it, if they are going to sit down and write, they need to be productive. The thing is, writing is never a completely linear process.  You can’t get from beginning to end without taking a few detours first.  And that often actually works to your advantage. Recently I was listening to an unreleased song written and performed by a friend of mine. The song was several years old and as far as I know, they didn’t play it live for many people either.  The song was pretty good, but what I found more interesting is that my friend eventually pulled two different lines from that single song and turned them into two separate and better songs later on. Rock Stars write songs and if they work, great! If not, they either discard them or repurpose them for better stuff later on.

Words are never wasted whether or not they make it into the final version of your book.

#3) Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
There are lots of legendary writers, past and present, whose personal mythology would have us believe that you have to sit alone day after day, lonely (and usually drunk) to write anything truly good. I know I’ve bought into that myth before - Sure, I’ll be glad to share my work with some of my writing friends - as soon as I figure out the plot problem in chapter eight I’ve been struggling with for six weeks.

All the musicians I know are inherently collaborators – even the solo performers. Sure they may write some of their music alone in their rooms late at night, but they are just as likely to show up at a group of their trusted friends and ask for help. They’ll play a piece and ask if the bridge works, or if the storyline makes sense or can anyone just help find a more eloquent way to say “you trampled my heart, you loser.” They know they don’t have to go it alone and it’s not cheating. Songwriters work together all the time. Look at the liner notes in the CD of your favorite musicians – I guarantee at least one song on that album will share writing credits.

I found that incorporating just these three small techniques in my writing allowed me to become a more productive, better writer. The nice thing is that writing like a rock star doesn’t require a #1 Top Forty Hit, a million dollar video shoot or even years of being out on tour away from family and friends. Embrace your inner rock star – while I can’t promise you a platinum record, I think you’ll find your writing life definitely improves for the better.

Regina Verow is an award-winning writer turned coach who specializes in working with creative people of all types in her practice, Creatively Conscious. She blogs at and you can find her on Facebook at Creatively Conscious.


  1. Regina,

    Wow and Wow! Thank you for bringing your creative and magical talents to R8.

    You realy hit the nail on the head with this blog and cracked open one of my inner demons, the industrious, post-Depression era, German one: don't write usuable words.

    I completely spun out last year in NANOWRIMO, when I had written to the end of my detailed storyboard which was sadly only one-quater into the book.

    I couldn't go on because I wanted each word to lead me closer to the ending of the story. In fact, I wanted to jump over the soggy middle and go straight to the end and be done. I felt really anxious wasting time and not knowing what was going to happen next.

    Next NANOWRIMO, I'm going to post these words on my computer: "Words are never wasted whether or not they make it into the final version of your book."

    Heck! I'm going to do that right now.



  2. Great advice, Regina! You've given me my mantra for the week. I'm gonna write like a rock star!

    Rock stars aren't shy, retiring people. But how often do we writers craft shy, retiring scenes? Our characters need to live out loud and we rock star writers have got to write them that way. After all, how many of our favorite bestsellers feature the small and forgettable?

    Thanks for your advice, Regina!

  3. Thank you, Regina, for visiting us this week. I love your post. I think you're on to something by looking at songwriters. I went to see the Katy Perry Movie Part of Me when came out in movie theaters and I recently bought the DVD. One of the things I admire about her (yes, she's a Rock Star and a songwriter) is that from the time she was 18 (and maybe even longer) she knew what she wanted to do. She had an iron-clad vision. It took her a lot of years to get to where she is today. But one of the things she absolutely does is give her audiences an emotional experience--she expresses true emotion and real life in her songs. And I think that if we remember it's the emotional experience our readers really want from us, we too can write like Rock Stars. There are many similarities between her journey and that of writers. I'd recommend the movie if others want to witness what means to be a Rock Star.

    Thanks for the three points. Amazing wisdom! Thanks again for guest-blogging with us this week.;0)

  4. Regina - Thank you so much for your awesome post! I think what you said about writing unusable words is so true. This is one thing that locks me up is the worrying that what I'm writing isn't good enough and just a warm up until I really start writing the good stuff. Also, reminding us to write every day is so true. I was just discussing that with another member of the R8; specifically, that when you take a break from writing, it's SO hard to get back into your story. Thank you again for the great tips.

  5. Write every day. Oh, you mean on the WIP? Not just random crap like emails and business letters? Shoot. Must work on that. I love the idea of writing like a rock star. How freeing to know there are no wasted words. Although, I reserve the right to get my words thoroughly toasted if that seems called for...

    And I don't seem to have a problem asking for help. After all, I asked you to guest blog, right? So 1.5-2 out of 3...not bad! Halfway to rock stardom! Hooray!