Three years and change I spent in graduate school, chasing my MFA in creative writing. I had a free ride, thanks to the good people of Tennessee. But I had to work for it—mostly trying to teach ball-capped, slack-jawed Mississippi frat boys that reading is more important than beer. For all that time and effort, the smartest, most intelligent piece of writerly advice I ever received came in two plain words from a fine writing instructor, Tom Russell. You guessed it: Write fast.
I won’t claim to be the king, even a prince, of writing fast. Maybe a minor knighthood, though. Consider…
My first published academic paper: written the night before it was due as a term paper.
First published short story: four hours for the first draft.
The only play of mine that’s ever seen a stage: A morning-noon-night gush in a favourite watering hole—diet Pepsi only, folks—produced the first hundred-page draft, later polished.
My two commercially published novels (Ruby Ruby, Vancouver: Anvil Press, 1999…Thorazine Beach, Anvil Press, 2013) each arose from 72-hour blitzes in the International 3-Day Novel competition, in whose 35-year history I’m the only two-time winner.
My respectful submission: I’m qualified to talk about the value in writing fast.
Ask any art teacher…Rank beginners, people who’ve never drawn or painted before, are reluctant to make a mark on a sketch pad page lest it be “wrong”…feel afraid to squeeze paint from the tube.
“But I don’t know what to write” is the litany of those would-be writers who suffer this kind of writer’s block. Truth: I don’t know what to write, either. Ever. The words come when I start typing. When I make them come.
Plenty of those who call themselves “Christian writers” have, in my perception, an exacerbated version of this block. Now, none of us Christians would deny that we have access, potentially, to a special kind of inspiration. That inspiration, we like to think, is the source of whatever virtue our writing may have. Some of us like to think of ourselves or our texts as “anointed.” Some that “God’s hand has guided” our writing. I’m with you so far. Though I’m not fond of the term Christian writer and don’t wear it myself, for reasons not here relevant, I’m a Christian and a writer, and, yes, the two are intimately connected. I, like most of those who’ll read this, I suspect, make it a practice to pray before a writing session, and often pray thanks afterward.
But such beliefs and practices can get in the way. I have to be in the right spiritual frame of mind, many Christian writers tell me. I ask: How do you get there? If the answer is by praying, I generally buy that. If the answer bears the shape Well, I just kind of have to wait…I often begin to sense a certain aroma. An aroma you can associate with farms. Or, ultimately, with fear. And with excuse.
Frank question…If you had to be “in the right spirit” to vacuum your living room carpet, how dirty would it be right now? If, at the office, you needed to be “in position, spiritually” before doing the accounts receivable, would they ever get done on time? And would the boss be pleased?
The Boss—that one, with the capital ‘B’—would be delighted, Christian writers, if you’d just get on with it.
Wrong recipe: Pray…wait…write.
Better recipe: Pray…write.
Bradley Harris is a Canadian writer, editor, and teacher living and working in Memphis, Tennessee. He is the only writer to have won the 3-Day Novel Contest twice - See more of this article at:
His current work Thorazine Beach is available at: