8 Powerful Tips to Get a Grip as a Writer
You’ve decided to write? Lay these foundations and you’ll be able to build a career.
1. Treat writing as a job.
Arrive at your writing space in the same way as you would arrive for a paying job-on time, and with the attitude that you need to work. Never be late. Not only will you get far more done (you will) you will unconsciously value the job more. Treating it casually, dropping in and out of the pursuit of writing, turns it into a ‘hobby’, something you do ‘when you have the time’. Be there and be reasonably prepared.
2. Be cool.
Tapping into emotion may be part of what writers do, but displaying inappropriate emotion on the job can lose another’s respect for you - and can lose you that job and any future jobs from that source.
There may be times when you get annoyed because of something that you can’t quite resolve in whatever it is you’re writing, but there are ways of dealing with that. Exploding isn’t one of them.
3. Make light of any attempt to throw you off track.
Rejection is a hard thing to take in any avenue of life. Writers often expose their souls in the course their work, and that kind of rejection can hurt deep. Of course, many hugely successful works which were rejected multiple times at first, but that might not help much at the beginning.
If you can, adopt a light-hearted attitude towards your work: this will have the advantage of energising it, oddly enough. Writers who take their work too seriously are usually the ones who a) take forever getting anything completed and b) become excessively depressed when they get rejection slips.
By making light of any attempt to throw you off track as a writer, you can deflect and destroy the distraction. Here’s an interesting axiom:
What you consider to be a foundation becomes a foundation.
In writing, as in most things, you get what you put attention on. If you want to continue as a writer, make it your bedrock and treat everything that comes on top as decoration.
There are two broad schools of writing: one that recommends planning a work in some kind of outline form either before starting or as it goes along, and one which refuses to make any kind of plan and writes spontaneously. Both have created works of genius. But, especially when you’re starting out as a writer, if you don’t know what you’re talking about or can’t explain something quickly and accurately, even to yourself, then your confidence can plummet.
An experienced editor once told me that writing a story is much like telling a joke: you ned to know what your punchline os going to be when you start.
You don’t have to plan every detail - I once knew a writer who had cabinets full of files about each and every one of his characters and plots. He didn’t actually get much writing done - but you do have to know your punchline.
5. Control your time.
The biggest enemy of the writer is interruptions. And the most insidious form of that enemy is interrupting yourself. You wouldn’t want an employee to stop work randomly and get caught up in a time-wasting distraction that cut his or her production. Be your own employee. Set up rewards systems for yourself, it if helps. Just be wary of interruptions, guard against them, have your own personal ‘firewalls’ to make sure that your writing time is protected and productive.
Your own creativity and power play a part in this: you must grab your own attention. Your writing should be more interesting than anything else that is going on for the duration of that work period. If you are plagued with interruptions, experience suggests that you haven’t understood the power and import of your own work to you and to others. You can figure this out on your own or by using some exercises in How Stories Really Work - A Practical Manual.
6. Concentrate on the volume of writing first, then quality.
Use this rule of thumb: get to 200 pages of work before you start correcting or editing. That’s between 80,000 and 100,000 words. Your morale will be higher when you come to look back.
If a mountaineer kept cutting back every few feet to see if he or she could find a ‘better way’ up the mountain, do you think that that mountain would ever be climbed?
Get a substantial amount of work done before you start picking it to pieces. It works.
7. Don’t be afraid to wander off your plan if you have a good and interesting reason.
Yes, I know I said ‘Plan’ above, but if something happens to arise spontaneously in don’t be afraid to ‘go with the flow’ and take your work off on a tangent. It may put your writing schedule behind, but if it adds energy and makes for a better story in the longer term, it’s worth the risk.
8. Dismiss setbacks.
True creativity is occurring when the writer is interested in his or her subject and willing to talk to communicate about it. Note that doesn’t include ‘able to talk about it’. You might be struggling for a channel to express what you want to express - but the magnitude of the struggle can measure the intensity of the thing you’re wanting to communicate.
There are many more actions that have helped writers write. These are only offered humbly in an attempt to help.
Above all, if you have something to say, it’s your responsibility to make sure it gets said.