My Three Best Pieces of Writing Advice
My best advice about writing is – write. Writers write. The more you write the better you’ll get at it. Writing is a skill and like any other skill from basketball to knitting, the more you practice the actual skill the better you get at the game, at making sweaters, or at writing stories. People treat writing as if it doesn’t require as much practice and dedication to craft as other things; why? I believe it’s because anyone can write. Anyone can sit down with a piece of paper and a pen and write. Anyone can sit down at a computer and type. The physicality of it is available to everyone who is literate and can read. If you know how to read, you can write something. It may not be a great piece of literature, but it’s words on paper and they’re right there in front of you. See – anyone can write, but not everyone can write well. That takes practice, dedication, and a lot of perseverance.
The above is the primary piece of how to be a writer, without it nothing else matters. But I’m about to give a second piece of advice that I’ve never put in a writing blog before because I didn’t realize how big a problem it was until recently. What is this new piece of advice? Stay off the internet. Yes, you read that right, stay off the internet. It’s a great tool for building a social network and promoting your work, and can be a good jumping off point for research. Never use other people’s websites as your only source for research, because most sites have no one policing them for veracity. Start on websites if you must, but don’t end there. That’s lazy research, which leads to lazy writing. It’s obvious that too much social media is like talking to your friends on the phone or having too many “business” lunches. It may all be helpful, even talking to friends can refresh you so you go back to writing with renewed vision, but if you do too much social anything it can hurt your productivity. Most writers can avoid picking up the phone and making a call, or going out the door to see people in person, but online socialization is harder to resist. It’s so easy to tell yourself, well I’ll just get on line for a few minutes; half an hour later and you’re still on line. I’ve done it myself. I’ve found that Pinterest and YouTube are especially time consuming for me. Twitter is easier, because there is a limit of 140 characters and then I’m done, or that’s how I felt at first. Now, I’m not so sure, because it’s also easy for me to think Twitter isn’t that big a time use, because of the individual messages being so short, but if I do too many short messages in a row, then it can add up to a lot of time. But what about promoting yourself and using social media as a business tool? It can be a very effective business tool, but not if you’re so busy trying to promote yourself and gain a larger online presence that you don’t get time to actually write. FaceBook was such a problem for me that I hired a media minion to post there, because I felt FB was too important to ignore, but it was also a huge time use that took away from my actual writing. I still do my own Twitter, but I’m trying to police myself better, because if I think its also taking too much time and attention, I may have to stop posting personally, which would be a shame since I enjoy Twitter.
I said time and attention above, and that second part is the other danger of the internet. I have found myself thinking, this, or that, would make a great tweet, or that would be a good blog. Now that’s all well and good, but if I find myself thinking about how to tweet, or Facebook, or blog, etc . . . and not about writing my novels, then something has gone wrong. The online media is supposed to support and promote my writing, not be more important than the writing, and if my first thought is what I’m going to tweet, Facebook, or blog, and not the novel I’m writing, then the social promotion is taking too much of my subconscious, and that part of my brain needs to be concentrated on writing my book. One of the most important tools for any writer is their subconscious. I know I’m in the zone for a novel when the book wakes me up early loud in my head with notes and the first few lines of the day. If I wake up thinking about any of my social media instead, then it hurts my ability to immerse myself in my novel, and immersion is what I need to be productive and make my deadlines. This leads me to the third piece of writing advice: Protect your prime writing time.
It will take some trial and error to figure out what your prime writing time is, and bear in mind it may change as you get older, or even with different books. Most writers have a time of day, or night, that they work best, once you find it, treat it like gold, because it is the time when your muse is talking the loudest to you. I work best first thing in the morning, let me add I wasn’t a morning person when I started writing like this, but over the years I’ve become one. I need to wake up and just go straight to my desk, if at all possible. I’m one of those writers that needs to not have anyone talk to me, or distract me in any way before I sit down at my desk in the morning. Anything more than tea before the first pages hurts my page count for the morning. The smallest interruption can disrupt me, and hurt, or even ruin, my morning writing session. I knew to avoid actual, in person people. I even wait to feed the dogs until after I’ve got a few pages for the day because if I take the time to take the dogs out, feed them, and then wait to take them out again, then I’m derailed. It’s the difference between sitting down at my desk ready to set the keyboard on fire, and sitting down at my desk with some of my energy spent, wasted on mundane things that could have waited for a few minutes. The dogs get a treat in my office while they wait for actual breakfast, and the dogs think that the office treat drawer is awesome. I’ve found that most of the mundane things that distract me from my desk first thing in the morning are all happy to wait until later; after I get my morning pages done.
So, in a nutshell: Writers write. Stay off the internet. Don’t let mundane things interfere with your prime writing time. Now, stop reading this blog and go write stories that only you can write.