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How to Be a Writer Part 1

‘The writing life is not an easy one’ — a sentiment sometimes voiced by writers. To which my wife would probably reply ‘Woe is your life!’ (sarcastically) — because of course the idea of being in a position to pursue one’s dreams as a writer is a relatively blissful one, in actuality. The notion that one can just sit and create something on one’s own and then have that creation entice, entertain and perhaps move others — maybe even make money — is about as close to an ideal scene as it is possible to get for some. However, in the day to day business of doing the writing, some things arise — which is what this is about.

1. Keep Calm

Writers move at different paces and shift gears all the time. One writer may feel a natural proclivity for thrillers for a few weeks and then lose interest; another may avidly grab for books about the Wild West for months, and then take up science fiction and put them all aside for a while. Think of a writer’s interest as a wide-beam spotlight, constantly sweeping across its environment, seeking out new adventures. For a while it might linger on one point of the landscape and then something else will catch its eye. This is how writers learn. If you are falling behind with deadlines, or feel that your quality is suffering, the tendency is to become anxious and to worry that this is indicative of a deeper lack. Calm down: getting worked up about one’s writing tends to create internal reactions of one kind or another. Even if you are concerned and there seems to be a problem, displaying anxiety about it is not a workable approach. Get back to free creating; let quantity and quality take care of themselves for a while.

2. Read

This sounds too obvious, but the best way to encourage writers to write is to get them to read. This doesn’t mean just books: you can be studying something, browsing items on your phone or laptop, reading packages or letters. Give words weight. Absorb their lessons. If you don’t have time to read visit libraries and bookshops and just browse for a short while.

3. Keep Things Interactive

It would be wrong to expect a writer to absorb every lesson that other books can offer without some kind of initial input. Let yourself notice things in stories; act out bits if needed; do the funny voices or movements required in your head or aloud. Allow yourself to be enthralled by a story. But also join a good writers’ group — with no or few negative members — and learn from your peers too. You are building a firm foundation for future success with every minute you spend keeping writing interactive and alive in this way.

4. Practice At An Easy Level

If you feel that you are falling behind with writing in terms of quality or quantity and are worried that you need to take swift action yourself, the wrong thing to do would be to plunge in and try to force yourself to operate at the level where you have calculated you’re ‘supposed’ to be. Labouring and repetition or intensity of study can make matters worse. Instead, drop down to the level at which you feel comfortable and — and this is important — happy. Practice writing at that level, keeping a smile on your face. Soon confidence will grow and ability and volume will follow.

This is a lot like dealing with your inner writer as though it was a creative child — because it is. Just as with children, frustration, being out of touch, trying to take in sterility and pushing too hard are all counter-productive: staying calm, making time to read, bringing things to life and dropping the demand factors a little will work wonders.


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