This is the year you are going to become a writer!
Everyone is a writer these days and you can be, too. Just pick up a pen, a laptop, or even your phone, and get to it! It is as simple as that, almost.
It depends upon what kind of writer you want to be, of course. If you want to start keeping a journal full of your thoughts, experiences, and feelings, it will be easy to let these personal writings flow from brain to page. If you want to capture silly ditties and stories you think up to entertain your kids, this too, is pretty simple to do.
But if your dream is to become a fiction novelist, prolific poet, or writer of inspirational books, and give up your day job to roll around in accolades and piles of money – you are going to have to learn some stuff, first! Becoming a writer starts with learning to adopt and adapt to the writing lifestyle.
Here are my Top 5 Tips for Channeling Your Inner Writer:
1. Starting out as a writer is easy. Put on a hat that says I am a Writer and walk into a cave. Now, close off the entrance with boulders, so that no one else can enter. Writing is a solitary activity. Ideas of meeting up with your writer friends at the local bistro or coffee shop for write-ins are romantic but not realistic. Sure, you can do it. Nothing is stopping you, but the fact is, writing is not effectively carried out as a group sport. Gathering with others to write, generally turns into chat sessions, where not much creative writing actually occurs. Social interactions must be put on the backburner, in order to settle down, delve into the world of imagination living in your mind, and to transfer it into the physical realm. Which brings me to the next point.
2. Get used to being a hermit. When I first started writing I was not in a relationship, nor did I have any children. On top of this, I am a comfortable introvert, i.e., I am quite happy spending time alone. However, more than two thirds of society are extroverts, ergo, they crave human contact, interaction, and attention. When writers slip into “the zone”, which is basically like going into another sphere of existence where only your creative mind exists – time and everyone in the external world disappear. You must be in this place in order for the ideas to form, and for stories and characters to start speaking to you, forming images and playing out scenes. The difficulty is getting used to going into the zone and staying there, comfortably. It can feel lonely, at first, and somewhat depressing. Sequestering yourself from others in order to “write” will feel strangely unpleasant, like you are missing out on life in some way. Even people around you will feel somewhat rejected by your mental absence or think there is something wrong with you.
To remedy this unease of becoming a part-time hermit, as a writer, I suggest making some kind of schedule for times of day when you will go into the zone and spend time writing. If you have an hour in the morning and/or the afternoon, free of other demands, then set that time aside regularly to crawl into your mental cave and write. You may let anyone close you know your plan, if you are comfortable with sharing, but it is not necessary. You can simply say you are catching up on reading – or whatever suits you. The truth is writing of any kind is a solitary pursuit, but it need not feel like solitary confinement, if you make it a pleasant routine. Which leads to the next point.
3. Put on your ‘writer’s hat’ regularly. To become a success at writing, you must make writing a regular part of your life. This means you must avoid the temptation to write like a demon for one week and put off writing for the next three weeks, afterward. Your writing intervals need not be every day, but they should be planned close enough together that you manage to keep the flow going. It needs to become a discipline, a habit, an addiction, even. Think of it as exercise. Going to the gym or working out at home initially requires you to force yourself to do it. You do not necessarily love it, in the beginning. You must make a schedule for yourself, or at least a loose plan of exercising three or four times a week. The more leeway you give, the more sporadic your sessions will be, easily becoming fewer and farther apart – because as humans we can come up with all kinds of reasons for not doing things that take work. Right?
Conversely, if you have a system to follow, a plan with goals, you are more likely to hold yourself to it. Pangs of guilt will set in if you miss a session. As you stick to your goals and start to see progress (no matter how small), you become excited, inspired and motivated to keep going. Exercising the body is the same as exercising the mind. Muscle begins to grow, and performance improves over time. Once the habit is formed, deviations from the adapted plan will feel wrong, uncomfortable. You will hunger to get back to it before the mojo is lost. Which brings me to the next point.
4. What should you write about? If you have been thinking about becoming a writer for a while, you may already know what you want to write. If not, a good place to start your venture is with writing what you like to read. Love vampire stories? Try writing one. Enjoy pirate adventures, same thing. If you want to stand out with your writing, try a mash-up of both genres – Dangerous Rogue Vampires of the Seven Seas! What you write is up to you. One thing you may come to discover, as many authors have, is that what you read is not necessarily what you want to write, or perhaps, not what you are good at writing. You might read historical romance novels but prefer writing Young Adult (YA) fantasy novels.
I like this quote from Sylvia Plath:
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”Sylvia Plath
The only way to know is to begin. But remember this one tip, writing becomes more difficult as you go along, but do not be discouraged or think this means you are not good at it. A story gets hard for every writer, at some point, even for the most seasoned. The difference between writers and published authors who write, is their ability to stick to it to the end. This means you must write out (or ride out) the first draft, from beginning to end of story, no matter how hard or how terrible you believe it may be. You will hear this phrase over and over from a million writers around the world: Every first draft is crap. It is nothing more than the writer telling the story to themself. It is in the editing process that the real story and characters are molded and perfected. So, do not expect perfection in your first draft – because that is the place where many writers die (metaphorically speaking). Perfection comes from honing your skill and story through a cycle of editing and revisions. On to the next point!
5. According to some authors writer’s block is a myth, a fictional tale told by writers who are lazy and want an excuse for not writing. In truth, writers block can be very real. If you are new to writing, you may not understand what the term means. Writer’s block is when the cogs of the machine (the writer’s creative brain) come to a screeching halt. Let’s say you have written several pages of a story and suddenly the well runs dry. You try to pick up where you left off and continue the story, but nothing is coming. You have hit a big, blank, granite wall, as high as it is wide. Too tall and slick to climb and no visible way around it. You try punching your way through it, pounding your head against it. It appears impenetrable. You may believe to have succumbed to the dreaded kryptonite of writer’s, the legendary writer’s block.
The problem comes from one of two things: a) something psychological is holding you back. Stress, exhaustion, or distraction have overwhelmed your creativity. You need to step back (briefly – perhaps a day or so) and handle things exterior to your writing life). Take care of work, chores, the kids, spouse and yourself – bring back peace to your external world. Sometimes, while taking care of the external – you will find the internal creative world sparking up while you are engaged in other things.
Or your problem could be b) story fizzle. Something has gone wrong in the story telling process and now you feel stuck, with no handsome, white hat ideas galloping in to save you. Should you give up? Hit delete and close the laptop? Never! You will need to examine your story. Although I do not usually recommend editing your work when you are initially writing the story, this is one time that you will need to do so in order to pick up the baton and start running again. I recommend you read through you story thus far and see if you can self-identify where the story seems to dry up.
Once you have found it, think about what can be changed to breathe new life into it. Could be the story started to go left when a better choice was right. Try plotting out (planning) what points/events need to occur in the story and make sure it is your main character (MC) that is the driving force. Sometimes, stories start falling flat when the MC is not strong enough (i.e., they become reactive to the plot rather than actively making decisions and driving the story forward). Remember story is really about characters. But that is another blog.
Remember the only thing necessary for you to become a writer is your will to take the bull by the horns and just do it! Start walking the walk.
I hope you found some of this information helpful. If so, give it a like and I may be inspired to write more along these lines.
That is all for now. Take care of yourself and write on!