B.I.C. in All Its Meanings

Before I forget, if you haven’t entered my contest for a copy of Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel, there’s still time. Just leave a comment for that post, and I’ll add your name to the pot.

For the past week, I’ve been running around like the proverbial decapitated chicken.  Today was the first time in too long that I had several hours to sit in my office and get a large chunk of work done. I set myself a goal for the day (made it!!) and got to work.

In other words, I did Butt In Chair (B.I.C.).

We’ve all heard the phrase. On a good day, we love the acronym and feel proud of how disciplined and productive we are. We even add F.O.K.T. (Fingers on Keyboard Typing) to our commitment.

On a bad day, we pretty much want to send the chair and the keyboard through the window.

This may be because we’re stuck on a too-narrow definition–the one that says B.I.C means typing away, putting words on the page, and sending those pages to the printer.

Today, I MAYBE typed 100 words.

My B.I.C. time was spent thinking. I was working on the next stage of The Critiquer’s Survival Guide. I have an interesting task to do while I write this book, and that is to create a very small  sample of each genre for which I discuss critiquing.  I’m using excerpts from real books, too, but those are for the good example. I couldn’t very well pick up a novel I thought was “not-so-good” and then write, publicly, about why I thought it didn’t work. So I’m making up those not-so-good examples.

Today was my day to pick topics. Even though I only have to write a page or two for each, I knew that–if I didn’t have a plan ahead of time–I’d hit a major stumbling block each time I started writing a new chapter. And stumbling blocks can pretty much triple that B.I.C. time!

How did I spend my B.I.C. hours? I thought. I scribbled ideas in a notebook, thought about my life and experiences, any things I might be a semi-expert on (to write something purposefully bad, you pretty much have to write it decently first). I closed my eyes and visualized, dipped into my memories and my opinions.

And then I typed a word or six.

There are days I don’t even come to my desk for B.I.C. Opening a chapter file—new or existing–can be deadly for brainstorming plot events or developing characters. You look at the empty page, or at the words you’ve already written, and you get stuck. You have no idea where to start the scene, or you’re frozen at the idea of changing any of the words you’ve already written.

For big thinking, I do B.I.C. in my rocking chair. Usually, it’s tucked away in a corner of my office. My husband and son drop into it occasionally for a chat. But when I don’t know where I’m going, when I have to explore concept stuff, I pull the chair out. I put a blank notepad next to me, with a pen, and get a cup of hot tea to sip on. And I rock.

The ideas come. Without a CPU, monitor, or keyboard anywhere nearby.

I’ll admit. As soon as I’ve got the thoughts, I’m back at the desk chair. I don’t trust my notepads or my brain to keep things straight. Everything goes into a computer file and gets printed out to the appropriate binder–my one-stop containment center. But it all starts in that rocking chair.

Be careful what chair you pick on any given day. Use B.I.C., but don’t let it use (or abuse) you. Writing is so many more things than just writing. You wear multiple hats as an author, and you need just as many places to wear them.

What’s your favorite chair, and how do you use it for writing?


  1. PJ Hoover says:

    I just recently recovered my writing chair. I’d worn holes in it. Is that bad?
    But I did pick a gorgeous fabric ($35 a yard on sale half price) to recover it with. And I made a matching bulletin board, also!


  2. Andra M. says:

    I do the same as you: Rock in my rocking chair with notebook and pencil in hand. Of course my pencil spends more time in my mouth than writing words, but I am at least thinking. I think 😉 .


  3. beckylevine says:

    I think it’s wonderful that you had to recover the chair! And I love the idea of the matching bulletin board. I always want one of those, but there isn’t really room &–whenever I’ve had one before, it kind of turns out like the refrigerator door–covered with stuff years old!


  4. beckylevine says:

    Ha! I love that image, Andra! Glad you have a rocking chair, too. 🙂


  5. Shawna says:

    I jump on my treadmil. Once I’m there sweating away, with my brain on ‘off’ mode, the ideas come. I think it’s because I’m not thinking so much. My mind is free to dream and it does. I keep a little notepad next to the treadmil and scribble notes as I walk then try to decode them later. Hopping on and off doesn’t work.

    I also seem to be inspired while I’m driving. So if you see the lady pulled over at the side of the road (or at the red light) scribbling madly on a piece of paper, any piece of paper, it’s just me.


  6. Terri Thayer says:

    My thinking time is on my walks. I take a portable tape recorder and talk into it. No one even looks at me funny anymore with all the hands free cell phones around.

    We’ve gotten used to seeing folks walking around talking to themselves. What a country


  7. beckylevine says:

    Shawna, that’s great. I hadn’t thought about a treadmill as a “chair,” but you’re right–it gets you away from that computer.


  8. beckylevine says:

    Terri–I’d rather see you talking into your recorder with a story idea than talking to “air” like all those people with their hands-free cells. Your reason feels less big-brother! 🙂


  9. Shawna says:

    You’re right. A tread mil is most definitely not a chair, but it’s a repetitive motion, like the rocking chair. I don’t think sitting in an ordinary chair has ever been conducive to bolstering my creativity. And hey, I get to kill two birds with one stone.


  10. beckylevine says:

    No, you’re right–I had trouble until I thought about the rocker! I just don’t think very well while I’m excersizing.


  11. Morgen says:

    My BIC time doesn’t always net much. All my ideas come to me in that time between awake and asleep, in bed with the lights off, and I save the thoughts by writing them on scrap paper by the bed – in the dark. (Reading these in the morning can be downright entertaining.) I try to have that “must write x-amount of words” time, but it doesn’t always progress what I started out working on! And, if the time is spent at the computer (like now), I end up online (like now). I have an AlphaSmart word processor which, for me, is the smartest way to go, since it doesn’t have on-line access. The only problem with it is that I’m limited to writing new scenes (no editing), since the rest of the story is on the computer – which I can’t use because I’ll end up doing stuff like this! This can be useful, though, because I see there are other writers out there, and seeing all of you writing makes me feel a little less like it isn’t a “real” job, so it inspires me to take it seriously, and put my B in a C and write….


  12. beckylevine says:

    The internet can be a big problem. I’m getting better at, if not turning it off COMPLETELY, turning it off until I hit certain milestones, then checking in quickly. I like the alphasmart for writing–although I always thought the little screen would be a problem–maybe because I’ve been using Word (and feeling like it LOOKS like a book!) for–ack–almost 20 years now. 🙂

    Don’t set yourself up for BinC having to be hours & hours. It can be 20 minutes if that’s what you need to get started.


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