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On Writing: 3 Tips That Have Helped Me

Are you wanting to become a writer? You might already be one.

And if you don’t think so, well, you can become one.

I’ve been writing professionally since 2011, before then I was studying it for almost five years. I love it so much – there is always something new to learn, but most importantly write. So whether you’re at university, studying for a 21st century writing career ahead or penning away at a novel squirrelled in your study, post-work, I’ve put together a few tips which may be of service.

There are so many books on writing which are valuable here but be aware that every writer this side of the millennium and before, has carved out their Writing Land for themselves… and the landscapes are all different, all varied, all personal to what works for them.

From Stephen King to Julia Cameron to Anne Lamott, there’s much useful advice on this topic. I hope some or all of this resonates with you.

Free Flow

Journalling – Go Free Flow; let the words flow, even if you don’t think they’re ‘good’. Just be yourself. (Bonus: you may quickly find your writing voice too!)

What’s really important, when you’re getting into writing, is practising the craft of it… whatever state you’re in. I believe it’s all about learning to write when the words aren’t perfect.

That could be in a journal, doing ‘morning pages’ à la The Artist’s Way (written by author Julia Cameron).

Or it could just be in your journal, whenever you feel like.

This could be when you’re angry and the words flow, though not so delicately.

This could be when you’re sad and you don’t want to write a thing: then, write whatever comes and feel proud that you’ve written something.

Hardest of all, when you’re both busy and you’re happy: writing, especially a free style of journalling, can feel like a foreign concept. Happiness – in a moment or a day – can seem enough for that. Then again, the happy side of love has been a poet’s food since … who knows when?

If you can capture your happy mood in words, you may find an optimism and lightness to it which will seem surreal – even wonderfully so – when you’re reading it when in a different mood.

Draft Away

Embrace bad drafts. Something is better than nothing. And, as Sheryl Sandberg reminds us in her book, Lean In, “done is better than perfect”.

When you feel like you’re in “draft”/baby-steps mode but you’re needing a level of polish and the blank page feels so intimidating (and so blank!), don’t worry about it – just write anyway.

Even if it’s your worst words.

Even if you wrote (and can prove it, with a little bit of paperwork archaeology) much more eloquently in grade three than in this assignment, short story or blog post.

Protect Your Work In Progress

Many writers have learnt this one the hard way. I believe this is hugely important. It takes self control. It’s hard. It can also be worth it.

In the age of over-sharing and the pressure that comes with the “platforms” of social media, it can be tempting to share ideas about baby manuscripts as they come and are moulded into place. Yet that may be detrimental to our book if we share too much, too soon.

The same goes, sometimes even more so, when it comes to conversations with other people ‘in person’.

Just watch an excited writer – one bursting with joy at their baby novel, a new plot line or just the general joy of baby characters growing inside of them to the pages of their novel – tell the ‘wrong’ person about their story idea or work in progress, and here lies an unfortunate case in point.

Someone who ‘doesn’t understand’ can smear your idea, if you’re lucky, or at worst stomp all over it.

The writer leaves feeling the opposite of encouraged at the thought of returning to their work, and, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about writerly/creative types it’s that we definitely need to believe in our works!

A prolonged and chronic level of doubt is surely the writer’s nemesis.

Sometimes people need to avoid certain foods or stimulants due to allergies or other health conditions. It can be the same with sharing our ideas – the ones we are trying to grow and nurture – with those who may not appreciate them.

These people can be our best supporters, closest friends, loved family members and beloved crew all round, but if you sense they don’t – or won’t – ‘get’ the vibe, vision or particulars of what you’re trying to write, please don’t go there. Share with someone else you trust or keep it in… it will be read soon enough in the editing process or when you’re ready to show others.

For myself, when I’ve ‘kept’ it in, despite my inner excitement (insert series of emoticons showing full gamut of varied emotions with only cool sunglasses guy emoticon missing), I’ve done what I’ve wanted to do: I’ve written.

Talking about it seems to scratch an itch for “expressing” the story, but if we don’t get it down on paper because of this, then what’s the point?

There is a wonderful book, which I read in university, which illustrates this point in a beautiful and very clear way. I’m going to revisit it, and if any of this resonates with you, I recommend it: Becoming a Writer by Doreatha Brande.

Wishing you flowing, easily drafted and ‘protected’ writing to you!!

Anna

 

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