We’re not even half-way through January, but I’ve already had a few wake-up calls when it comes to writing. Some were timely reminders, other sharp slaps in the face, but all of them worth sharing, I think, because I have a feeling I’m not the only one who’s been here, done that.
1. Love what you write
This is not to say “Believe everything you write is perfect”. If you did that you’d probably have a first draft riddled with typos, grammar errors, and major plot inconsistencies and think that it was oh so lovely and will you accept it? That would be a different kind of wake-up call. No, what I mean is be passionate about what you’re writing. If you don’t like where a plot is going, then maybe it’s time to reconsider it. If you’re not getting along with your characters then maybe it’s time to figure out where you and them have split and try to find some common ground. A friend told me yesterday that generally “something you hate to write is something others won’t want to read”, and based on his reaction to my short story…that’s very likely true
2. Write for yourself
A common rule, but one I felt I should share again because it turns out that sometimes it’s very hard to follow. If you’re writing for a deadline, or for a specific project that’s fine – but don’t get bogged down with the “when and for whom”. As much work as it is, and as stressful as it can be, writing is fun. If you’re not having fun, then it means that something is off and you need to sit back and look at your motivations.
3. Learn to say “No”
Colin F Barnes wrote an incredible post on this subject recently. I’ve taken on quite a few editing tasks in the last little while and it’s giving me added stress that doesn’t help my writing. On the other hand, it could eventually lead to a profitable little side-business, so I don’t want to give it up entirely. The trick is to find balance. Between my day job and my writing, I’m always “on”, always at work in some form or another, and the tasks for others just adds to that ever growing to-do list. It’s been ages since I’ve been able to relax and read without feeling like I should be doing something else. Priorities need to be sorted, and the things lower on the list need to be dropped ASAP. No questions asked – it’s for the sake of sanity.
4. Develop your thick skin!
I felt the exclamation mark was needed here. In my opinion – cancer crab that I am with the very soft, sensitive underbelly – this is the hardest part of writing. Not everyone is going to like what you have to offer, not everyone will read your work and think it’s “ohmigod, like, totally the best thing over.” You will get rejected, you will get not-so-great feedback, but what’s important to remember is NONE OF IT IS NEGATIVE. It may feel that way when you first get the news, but all it means is you’ve learned something new.
I know all of these have been written/suggested a million times before, but honestly this post is just for me. It’s for myself to go back to when the days are rough and the rejection letters keep pouring in, or when something I’ve spent good time on can be used for nothing more than fire fodder.
Any other rules of thumb you live by to get you through?