Writers spend most of their days stuck in their own heads.
More than any other occupation, writing requires creative thoughts and emotions that warp reality.
As writers, these wild imaginations are valuable. But they can also distract us, fill us with fear, and cause us to forget the most obvious truths, like…
1. You can write anywhere, anytime.
You don’t need a year’s sabbatical, a summer abroad, or a weekend retreat.
You don’t need to quit your job and move to a remote cabin in the woods.
You also don’t need a special table at the café, a dedicated writing office, a clean desktop, a double espresso or a glass of wine, complete quiet throughout the house, twenty minutes of free-writing in your journal just to get into the mood, a cleared schedule for the day, or any of the other minute details we fussy writers feel have to be in place before we can even think to begin our writing.
You need your writing tools (laptop, smartphone, tablet, or pen and paper) and a timer.
Open your manuscript, start your time, and go. That’s it. Action creates motivation and inspiration, not the other way around.
2. What comes out on the page won’t always match the ideal in your head.
I have written many bestselling novels…in my imagination. They are perfect manuscripts, emotionally charged, beloved by readers, culminating in surprising plot twists and satisfying endings that set up the sequel in an irresistible way.
Then I sit down to actually write these masterpieces, and they come out all wrong.
I write them anyway.
You have to write the bad stuff to get to the good stuff.
Our ego creates amazing works of creative perfection in our imagination. Part of the enjoyment of a creative vocation is this ability of our imagination to dream big, to cultivate grand ideas.
But then we must do the actual work of creation, and that work is far from perfect.
Perfection doesn’t exist.
Be kind to yourself as you’re writing these first drafts. Turn off the inner critic and listen instead to that creative voice that will lead your work to its greatest potential.
Stay true to your inner creative voice, and the work will be better than perfect.
It will be done.
3. Patience in writing is essential.
In our modern age of information, we’re used to knowing the answer. We can access information in minutes, if not seconds.
That’s not always possible in creative work. When you’re writing a story, the right words are not always clear. The answer is not always at the top of your head, the tips of your fingers.
You must have patience.
Step away. Take a break. Maybe take a walk. Surrender and trust in the creative process.
Have patience and be willing to let the story come to you.
It will come.
4. You will not be able to follow another author’s path to success and expect the same results.
So much advice is available to authors these days. Writers at every level in their career graciously offer advice on productivity, marketing, and craft, and in almost all cases, this advice is valuable.
But no one has it all figured out.
Your path to success will look different from any other author…because there IS no path.
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is not a path and leave a trail. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
We fear the uncertainties of a creative career, and yet the excitement and possibilities that arise from those same uncertainties are what drew us to a career in writing in the first place.
So embrace those uncertainties. Try new methods. Trust your own instincts in your career.
Don’t be lured by a false sense of security in following another’s path.
5. Every writer experiences self-doubt.
Self-doubt comes from the fear of being unworthy, unloveable, and separate or different from every other human on the planet.
Writers are especially susceptible to this fear.
Writing makes us vulnerable to judgment and criticism, and with that vulnerability comes self-doubt.
I’m not ready. The work isn’t good enough. What if readers hate it?
Every writer experiences self-doubt, even successful, multi-published ones.
Remember your connection. All writers experience this vulnerability. You are not the first person to experience these fears, let alone the first writer.
And you won’t be the last.
Try saying or writing positive affirmations. Take comfort being part of a collective experience of writers in the same situation.
6. You have no control over the reader.
Once a book is published, it belongs to its readers.
Some readers will love your book.
Some readers will hate it.
Many readers, having busy lives and tempting distractions, will read it and move on, indifferent and uncaring of the time, effort, and mental anguish put into the writing of it.
And the rest of them? They will ignore your book altogether.
Such is the way of the professional author. Learn to accept that releasing your work to the public means letting go of control.
I know this is tough. Once you call your book finished, you can no longer “fix” it. You can’t defend any mistakes because you have labeled it complete.
Readers can do whatever they want with your book. They can hatefully criticize it. They can worship its lyrical perfection. They can throw it in the trash. They can press it urgently into the hands of a friend, saying “You have to read this book!”
You control exactly none of that.
Your job is to write the book and release it to the reading public, mistakes and all. Your job is to be proud of the time, effort, and skill you devoted to the work. Your job is to market your work to the best of your ability.
Your job is to learn from this process and — if you choose — to start it all over again.
7. Finding your audience takes time.
Your readers are out there among the billions of people in the world bouncing from one distraction to another, stressed-out at their jobs, navigating their relationships, addicted to their screens.
It’s going to take some time for you to find each other.
You might be able to speed up this process with marketing and promotion. In fact, writers must devote part of their career to learning to brand and sell themselves and their work.
Still, the best marketing plans take time to implement. An audience grown organically over time will follow you and read more of your work than one manipulated with aggressive ads or hollow social media campaigns.
Keep writing. Keep putting your work out there. You will find your readers. They’re waiting for you.
8. Success is not at the top of a ladder.
You won’t be able to climb straight to the top of a successful writing career, one rung and a time.
The course of a professional writing career is more like a roller coaster, a winding path through the wild forest, a trek through the jungle — pick your favorite metaphor.
The point is, a writing career is never a straight, upward advancement to an imagined pinnacle of success.
Like most worthy endeavors, achievement in writing often takes one step forward, two steps back.
Some books succeed. Some fail. Some readers leave glowing reviews, others cut the work down. You will have days when the words flow easily, and days when you struggle to write one cohesive, engaging sentence fragment.
But every professional writer started as an amateur.
And every professional writer is one who navigated the ups and downs of the writing life and never gave up.
9. Writing is hard work.
Crafting a story is difficult, time-consuming, and mentally and physically exhausting.
Writers have such love and devotion for our craft, we forget sometimes that we’re working. We wonder why we can’t write more, do more. We wonder why the exhausted muse abandons us suddenly after days of intense focus.
I blame our love for reading. As writers, most of us grew up reading and loving books. It was our favorite pastime, enjoyable and easy. Wouldn’t it follow that writing stories would be the same?
We can dream up a million different stories in our imaginations, and this too, is easy.
But writing them is hard work.
Writing stories takes planning, strategy, execution of craft as well as creativity and imagination. Multiple skills are needed.
Also needed is a willingness to rest when we’ve worked ourselves to exhaustion.
10. You are a writer, but you are not your current novel.
Artists tend to attach their identity to their creations. Writers get so involved with their current works-in-progress they begin to believe their entire lives rest on the outcome of telling a story.
Step back and widen your perspective.
Writing is something you do. It is not who you are.
You are more than any one novel you will ever write. In fact, you are more than your entire collective body of work.
When you begin to feel overwhelmed by the novel in progress or creatively blocked, question if you are identifying too much with your writing. Examine the other important roles in your life: parent, sibling, friend, partner, badass guitarist, whatever.
I bet you contain multitudes, and the outcome of one little novel will never alter that.
Credit: Stacey Anderson Laatsch