The Only Writing Advice You’ll Ever Need

The following is a guest post by Joell Stebelton, who is writing a children’s book. She originally posted it as a freewrite in this month’s writing group (The Republic of the Body) and I knew immediately it was something I wanted to share here. Thankfully for us all, she said yes!


Butt in Chair (BIC)

It is your practice that brings the pages to you. No writing book, no MFA, no writer’s conference, not even a writing mentor can give you the pages.

You wanna write a book? I’ll tell you what I learned after all of the above… well, except the MFA. (But I swear I’ve bookmarked at least a dozen universities.)


It’s the only advice you need. You don’t need shelves of books outlining someone else’s process, even if that someone else is a published author and you’re not. You don’t need to sell your mother’s Hummel figurine collection on eBay to fund a shwanky low-residency master’s program in creative writing.

Yeah, writer’s conferences can give you practical information on submissions, finding agents, and what to bring to your first book-signing. But no presenter can tell you what happens next in your story,  and while the most encouraging writing coach on the planet can help you come up with a plan, it’s up to you and you alone to get the writing done.

There is no magic formula.

Except BIC.

Butt in chair.

That, my friends, is how you write a book. Get your butt in a chair… or a treehouse… or a chaise lounge. Just sit down and, for the love of all that is holy, write.

When the itty bitty shitty committee shows up with their usual discouragement about the quality of your work, write.

When the phone rings,
when the dogs bark,
when it’s raining,
when it’s sunny,
(especially when it’s sunny),
when you’re feeling inspired,
when you’re feeling uninspired,
when you’re in a zone,
when you’re out of the ballpark,
when you’re wishing the Muse would remember your address,
when you’re tired,
when you’re sick AND tired,
when you’re thinking you should take up jiu jitsu instead,

Write. Even if it’s just three sentences. Show up and write. And eventually, months or years later, you’ll have a first draft. A shitty first draft, perhaps. But a finished first draft. The end.


Joell Stebelton lives in the woods of northeast Ohio with four dogs, a cat, and a woodpecker who is currently drilling holes into her library window. She’s a mama to an Ohio State Buckeye and a daughter who spends more hours at the barn than at home. She’s a writer, a reader, a yogi, and a closet nun.

4 thoughts on “The Only Writing Advice You’ll Ever Need

  1. Paula says:

    Thank you. Exactly what I needed to find in my inbox as I was deciding between writing and today’s crossword picture.

  2. Yup. I have a son who is a fine artist with 4 very young children. If he hasn’t slept in 2 days, he paints. If he has a half hour or a full day, he paints. No artiste about him. He just paints. And sells $10,000 paintings. He’s my role model for my writing. Butt in chair or at the easel. That’s it. That’s all.

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