The formula to make copies is simple:

Put the papers in the copier + press COPY = Copies Made

Writing a novel, on the other hand, is a series of such complicated, odd hurdles of the mind that it resists any formula but this:

(Pain + Time) × dumb luck (i.e. inspiration, the Muse, the hand of God) = A Finished Novel

The Formula for Creative Writing

Photo by Lee Nachtigal

Consider deleting dumb luck from your equation. You have so little control over dumb luck or the hand of God it’s hardly worth accounting for it except in retrospect when you say, “That was nice. Thank you for that dumb luck.”

You do have control over your time and pain threshold, though. You can choose to spend as much time and go through as much pain as you want. Thus, this becomes  your new formula for writing:

Pain + Time.

If you want to write a book, you need to embrace pain. Accept it as a hazard of doing the work you love. Realize it will come when you least expect it. It’s okay to run from it for a little while. As long as you come back.

Pain + Time.

Coincidentally, every pregnant woman and mother in the world knows this formula intimately. Making copies is easy, there is little pain and it doesn’t take that much time. However, if you want to give birth to something completely new, it requires something more of you.

Pain + Time. It’s the only way to create anything of value.


Spend some time free writing today.

If you have a work in progress, free write for your novel. If you don’t, write about whatever comes up.

Write for fifteen minutes. When you’re finished, post your practice in the comments.

And if you post, make sure to comment on a few other Practitioners’ posts to encourage them that their pain and time is not in vain.

Joe Bunting
Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. You can follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).
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