Thursday, May 23, 2013
The Best Advice a Writer Can Receive
Our writing lives happen in stages. Novice, early journeyman, journeyman, lieutenant master and master. Yes, I just made that up, but it is how I see a writer's career. You don't travel from one to another without serious investment of time, education and experience, not to mention bumps and bruises. But with each stage comes advice from those who've gone before us.
So I say there isn't one piece of advice that trumps the others. We amass advice, and it behooves us to remember all the jewels and not think that one diamond outshines the other gems. There comes time for rubies, sapphires, opals, onyx, tanzanite, and emeralds as well. All are worthwhile to keep.
Here is some of the best advice I've received from acquaintances about writing:
1) Finish whatever you start.
What you think starts out slow might end on a high note. What you think isn't good now might be once you edit. Writing can zap the life out of you, and sometimes we reach a mid-point in a work and want to give up. That might be the time you need to dig in and prove you can overcome this hump. I had a published mystery author tell me this over dinner one night, before her signing, when I told her my rough draft of Lowcountry Bribe sat on a shelf from where I gave up.
2) Write daily.
It works for Stephen King, and he's unashamed to say it's the right way to write. It's served him well. Whether you write morning pages ala Julia Cameron or five hundred words in your next novel or angst-ridden poetry, write every day. You don't get better not writing. You don't get better thinking about writing. You don't get better by quitting when it gets hard. You only get better by writing, so writing daily only makes sense.
3) Read voraciously.
The more I read, the better I write. And I've become selective in what I read because reading is like osmosis. What you reads sinks into your system. I choose what I think is better writing than mine because I want to learn as I'm entertained. We write better when we read better writing. Don't ever be caught without a book, and don't think you have to read bad writing to understand it. You already know what it is. As a professional, fight to move forward in your talent.
4) Be careful of those who hold you back.
You know the people I'm talking about. The ones who question your ability to earn a living as a writer. But also the ones who rabidly criticize you for taking yourself seriously. Keep chugging away, and discard the naysayers. Critiquers are good, but some get overzealous. And as one critique partner of mine warned me on one dark evening when a couple of writers tried to dismantle what I considered a damn fine chapter: "Many unsuccessful writers will try to change your writing, because it makes them feel big to impact your climb to success." Believe in yourself and keep at it.
5) Never think you've arrived.
Humility exists in all levels of professionalism. About the time you think you've arrived, something or someone will painfully remind you that there's always room to grow.
6) It has to hurt.
Rejection, critiques, mistakes, one-star reviews, snubs, ignored submissions, contest losses, no comments on your blog, your sister not reading your manuscript, and on and on. All jobs have down sides. Writing is no different. Don't be such a diva. Put a band-aid on it and keep writing. Learn from the scars. Accept your mistakes and try not to make them again.
7) And most of all . . . keep going.
Especially on the days that suck. Especially on the days someone stomps all over your creativity. The fact you got up and kept writing makes you stronger.