Sometimes you don’t even realize that this timeless adage applies to you. I’ve spent too much time trying to follow the advice of those I believed to be experts in the craft of writing, not understanding that I was emulating what works for them, then concluding that I was lacking in discipline. Finally I believe those authors who say to find your own way. Read about successful authors. Read about their schedules, their protocols, their procedures, and their magical notions. Then develop your own using that information as guidance and motivation. Now I know that no writer, no matter how successful, should espouse anything in the craft beyond Neil Gaiman’s admonishment…
Write & Read Every Day!
Know yourself. Be honest. Ask yourself if you will really write at sunrise, or will you stare wistfully off into the distance while taking that extra hour to fully awaken. Ask yourself if you will really write 1,000 words each day if you’re not producing that now. There are many strategies that writers use to coax the words out of themselves. If you will write at the coffeeshop, instead of people watch and order another latte and another latte, that is your way. If you know you will do something, then you may still struggle a bit until it becomes a habit. Persist! Habits are harder to kick.
You can adjust your schedule for practicality. Let go of guilt. This is your life. Do it your way. I substitute teach part-time. When I tell my husband that I will write in the two hours between the end of my work day and his, I am lying. Kids are emotionally draining, so that my brain is not accessible for writing on a day I substitute. That’s okay. I am in the process of accepting that, and now I must find time to write in the evening. This is better for both of us, as he is teaching himself programming and cannot be disturbed. You can adjust your schedule accordingly, but keep writing.
Learn from others. You don’t have to do what they’re doing. There are nuances galore to stuff and fill any little gaps in your protocols or procedures. Writers are lifelong learners in tune with the nuances of the world. There’s a difference between knowing that someone does something and knowing why. Understanding the reasons for someone’s actions may give you insight into how you might do it more effectively in your own way. I’ve found excellent writing groups online for advice. On Facebook, Writers Helping Writers, Bad Writing, and The Write Life Community are a few that I follow. You can also follow other writers who are in various stages of a writing career.
Fill yourself and your environment with inspiration. Requiring inspiration made me feel needy, until I grasped that my favorite authors had tons of inspiration throughout their writing sanctuaries. Along with books on the craft of writing, read books that inspire you to move forward. Surround yourself with motivational ideas. Here are a few that inspire me: Robert Benson’s Dancing On the Head of a Pin, Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life, Stephen King’s On Writing, Sark’s A Creative Companion. Many authors interact with fans on Facebook and Twitter. Some of my favorite authors do: Diane Chamberlain, Lisa Scottoline, and Mary Kay Andrews.
Read and analyze books you love. It’s challenging to look at the words when a story is flowing through you. Go back and determine why that scene went so well. Look at the sentence structure. Note transitions and segues. Understanding why you love it will improve your own writing. Feel the story. Then analyze it to its core. Adapt what you learn to your style. Be the best writer that you can be.