The last three days have been totally banner for April Line Writing, with nearly 100 views each day! I am honored and flattered and pleased, but am now confronted with a raised bar.
Perhaps you’d like a mildly funny post about the writing process? You would?! Oh joy. Here goes.
Yes, like Nike. Sit down, and write. Write longhand or type or record yourself talking and transcribe it. I don’t care. You won’t get good unless you do. Also, have sex. Sex is good material. If you can’t, won’t, or don’t have sex, exercise. Habitually drinking too much is also good material*. You just have to be sober enough to write recognizable prose.
Practice observing. Next time you’re at a restaurant, look at the people at the next table and note their state of hygiene, the color of their hair, whether they wear wristwatches, if they talk after they order, or if they just stare at each other. Make notes about this. Mental notes or physical notes.
Read, Read, Read, Read, Read.
The best analog I can come up with here is with athletes. Tennis players play tennis, yes, but they also research tennis. They watch their heroes playing tennis well and they mimic them. You will not become a show-stopping writer if you’re not reading stuff like that which you want to write.
And here’s a truth, “I don’t want to be influenced,” is amateur for “I want to be a hack. The only people who will ever read me are my mother.”
There are no new ideas. You bring your lens to ideas that are part of the collective unconscious, that’s what makes your voice. The best thing you have is your voice, and if you have a strong voice–which is something you need to be a writer–it will not be appropriated by other voices you’re reading. Too, you will learn by reading.
You will write stories using tricks like those you’ve read. I recently read a book that was in 3 different points of view (first, second, and third person!). It worked! I would even call it genius! From reading, you’ll get implicit permission from other writers to try new stuff.
Reading books about writing is good, too, but I’d say the best thing is to read what you want to write. Obsessively. You can pepper in a book about writing here and there, but don’t overdo it. It’ll overwhelm your mind and cause stagnation.
Keep a journal.
Not everybody can be a writer.
Quit crying. It’s true. Some people are shit writers. Don’t feel bad! If my life depended on the ability to do algebra, I would die. Sure, if you want to commit your life to becoming a writer, you can do that, and do it adequately. Megan Lloyd, a famed Children’s book author came to my elementary school and told us all that she started her life coveting the life of an artist, but couldn’t draw for anything. She forced herself to learn, and I suspect that that drive is the gift–not the ability that comes with it.
If you can write, or if you can’t help but write, do. If you can’t, take up something else. You will probably be more rewarded and fulfilled, for another thing in a writer’s tool box must be the ability to deal with LOTS of rejection.
Getting shot down is part of the thing. Suck it up.
Seriously. If you’re reduced to tears by a single no, or if you’re someone who gets one rejection and quits trying, don’t waste your time becoming a writer. Every brilliant writer gets rejected more times than she gets accepted. If you’re meant to do it, eventually rejection won’t be such a part of the thing–you’ll have written a few articles or books and people will ask you to come talk and read, and from that more doors will open, but it’s rough going for oh, let’s say, the first deacde or so.
Writing is a lifestyle. If you want it, start now. If you’re 10 and you still haven’t started, you have some time, but not much. This is ideal if you’re a trust fund kid or independently wealthy, or spend a ton of time sitting around staring into space at your job. If not, you must find time to do it. Every day you’re not writing is a day you’re not getting better, mastering the craft, learning about yourself as a writer and reader. You must do this now and every day for the rest of ever.
The best part is knowing yourself
When you find yourself at age 23, with no social life to speak of, but pages upon pages upon pages of writing, and the few people you do speak to nod condescendingly and say, “you talk like a writer,” know that their condescension is envy. They wish they knew themselves the way you do. You are starting adulthood with the ability to complete tasks, to be self-directed, and knowing how your mind works. These three tools are invaluable in every pursuit.