If you want to be a writer: write.

The secret to becoming a writer is to write. It’s not complicated. As Joe Bob says, you’ll never become good at this thing without getting your practice in, and practice involves doing. I would like to elaborate. Here are a few simple ways to help yourself get into the swing of writing.

Believe it or not, you don't actually NEED a USB Typewriter.

Believe it or not, you don’t actually NEED a USB Typewriter.

Write First – Criticize Later

 

I realize it’s easy not to do. We live in a world filled with discouragements. Distractions that can keep you from writing are often internal, rather than external: a series of “you will suck” voices nagging in the back of your brain. They cause you to stop before you start, and this is a form of destructive self-criticism paramount to self-censorship.  If you let these voices take over, it will manifest as writer’s block.

Listen to your inner Roger Ebert instead... he's giving your writing two thumbs up!

Listen to your inner Roger Ebert instead… he’s giving your writing two thumbs up!

The best way to get on the opposite side of that is to write first, then go back and edit and improve what you have written later. Keep reminding yourself that first drafts do not need to be perfect. You can perfect your writing later.

Perfection Is Not Required

One of the biggest deterring factors for creativity is this false notion that everyone is going to immediately spit out a masterpiece. First of all, even if you really DID happen to run out there and churn out a masterpiece the first time out by some miracle or accidental occurrence of random chance, or perhaps because you are particularly brilliant – you wouldn’t necessarily be recognized for it in your lifetime. In his lifetime, John Keats received bad reviews and sold about as many copies of all three of his poetry books combined as – well, I have, of all of my books combined.

Tell your inner anal retentive to go take a hike while you're writing - you don't need him until editing time,

Tell your inner anal retentive to go take a hike while you’re writing – you don’t need him until editing time,

That doesn’t mean I am a genius, not at all. It does, however, mean that poor sales and bad reviews aren’t necessarily a gauge of the ultimate value of your body of work. Maybe someone who is reading this, IS a genius writer. Or maybe not. But if you want to create something: making things is good. It is a delightful exercise for the writer, and if we are fortunate someone else will delight in what we’ve created, also. But in order to be able to create in the face of possible criticism one must divorce oneself from the need to be perfect.

Don’t Compare Yourself To Others

When I published my first book, one of my friends told me she was afraid to read it, because if it was bad she would be afraid to tell me, and if it was good it would make her feel bad about her own writing. She was honest enough to say what many others who write secretly feel.  I told her that she should not feel obligated to tell me if she likes the book or not, and look at it the other way: if it really sucks, she can think, “I can write a better book than that!” and be inspired and go write, and the book will serve a purpose.

This is me - I am not Richard Bachman.

This is me – I am not Richard Bachman.

When I started writing, I wanted to write meaningful literary fiction. The problem is – I am not actually that kind of writer. There is no need to compare yourself to others, because others will make comparisons for you as soon as you put yourself out there.  Soon enough, you will be pigeon holed: fewer than 300 people have read my books, and I’m already starting to get a bit niche-identified: there are not one, but two reviews of “Solitude” comparing me to Stephen King. They are positive reviews, but I still cringe when I read them: everyone doesn’t love Stephen King, and I’m definitely not him, so that makes me kind of like a knock-off Gucci bag, I guess.  Or Pepsi.  However, I don’t deny those rumors that I am actually Richard Bachman ;).

The resemblance is uncanny. We even have the same glasses. No wonder people confuse me with Stephen King.

The resemblance is uncanny. We even have the same glasses. No wonder people confuse me with Stephen King.

External Criticism – Use it, or Lose It

Which brings me neatly into the next point about writing: when you receive criticism, constructive or otherwise, analyze it to see whether or not it is something you need to address. If it is, then determine whether or not it is the proper time to address it. Don’t let it discourage you, or get you down. Also, understand when something is truly necessary or a stylistic choice. Self-appointed grammar experts are annoying, but you should try to be friendly and patient, and then determine if what they are saying is valid through your own research.

This graphic reminds me of a friend who proofread my book, missed some typos and added an ungodly number of optional commas.

This graphic reminds me of a friend who proofread my book, missed some typos and added an ungodly number of optional commas.

The above graphic comes from Language Hippie

As a self-published writer, I have to deal with both accurate and inaccurate criticism regarding the editing of my books. When you self-publish, editing is something done by gracious friends and/or people you pay. Mine is done by a combination of the two. When friends criticize my grammar, sometimes I try to get them to edit what I’ve written. Other times, I just hire yet another editor to conduct another round of editing – if I am selling enough books, and can afford it. I also take classes at community college to improve my ability to self-edit. My short story book “Things That Go Bump In My Head” is probably the best edited work I have put out to date, since most of the stories in it were created in a classroom, and edited by English teachers as coursework.

But.. but it’s too scary! Tooooo scary!!!!! Your horror is too scary!

Grammar issues are things that can be worked on. Some other issues are less of concern. There are people who don’t like my writing because it’s “too dark”. I am not going to change genres because someone doesn’t like dark fantasy, apocalyptic science-fiction or horror. People who don’t like the genre can just read something else. No one can write for everyone. Know your audience. Know yourself.

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~ by Sumiko Saulson on December 17, 2012.

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