Sunday, March 1, 2009


When the novelist Anthony Burgess was a young man, he was told he had a brain tumor and would die in a year. Did he despair?

No, he plunged into a frenzy of writing that resulted in nine books, a heroic effort to outrun death and make a name for himself. Fortunately for this multi-talented writer and musician, the doctor was wrong, but the diagnosis prompted a creative outburst. Is there a lesson here for writers, one I can share in an upcoming seminar I am planning? Perhaps.

I have always valued deadlines, although in the case of Burgess, the connection between "dead" and "deadline" is too grim. Writers don't need death sentences to motivate them. Still, I know that the more time I have, the less I do and that having a time limit is essential in getting a project underway and completed.

Although I doubt I would act as Burgess did, I know how fear can be a useful means of motivation. Yet too much fear, in the form of worry, can produce writer's block (a topic I address in some of my workshops). As always, the middle way has to be the goal.

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