In his excellent book, Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads, Paul Theroux talks about “places so obscure . . . they were described in the rural way as ‘you gotta be going there to get there.'” This struck me as a perfect mantra for writing, especially a novel. In order to get a novel, you gotta be writing a novel. Have some idea of the destination and be taking steps to get there. If you’re not already going there, you’ll never get there. Of course, it could apply to other things in life, as well. If you want to be fit, you gotta be taking steps to get fit. If you want a clean house, you gotta be cleaning house. While these other applications don’t quite mean the same thing as the original instruction, I still think they’re a useful reminder that to get anywhere, to accomplish anything, you have to be actually taking action, specific action, directed at that goal.
So, I ask myself, “If I want to be a writer, am I writing?”