Ever since I was little, I knew that the only thing I wanted to do was write. Sure, there were my brief phases where I imagined myself doing something brave or adventurous: FBI agent, fashion designer, veterinarian, ballet dancer, princess….but these were all very, very short lived.
While I may have known what I wanted to do when I “grew up,” there was still a lot I didn’t know. What did I want to write about? Was I even a decent writer? Who was I writing for: myself or an audience? This is where I wish I would have had someone to guide me through.
To this day, two published books and another one on the day, there are still so many questions I have. But there are a few things I have answered for myself along the way, and in effort to help anyone who may still be questioning whether the whole writing path is for them, here’s my two cents:
1. Don’t Doubt Yourself–Have a Big Ego
Something I struggle with every single day. I think we all do. It can creep up on you at any second. The only thing I can tell you in this situation is to put your chin up and carry on. It’s not a whole lot to go by, but you can’t leave even a centimeter of room for this dreaded “doubt” word. If you do, you may forget why you even started writing in the first place. SImply tell yourself that you are the greatest, sexiest pen-master to ever walk this earth, even if you don’t entirely believe it yourself. Seriously, it’s amazing what a slightly big ego can accomplish in times like these.
2. Don’t Be a People-Pleaser
Maybe you’re re-reading what you’ve already written, and secretly you’re wondering if anyone else will like it. I’ve got news for you. If you’re writing to please other people, then you’re writing for the wrong reason. Just like any other hobby, you write first because you love it, and second for others to read it. Maybe it’s selfish, but this is about you. The characters you’ve created, the story you’re thought of; it’s all a product of your imagination. Recently one of my favorite authors has been under heavy fire for killing off the main character in her series–those of you who have actually read this series will know what I’m talking about–and has even received threats from fans. But here’s the thing: that series ended the way it did because it was how the author saw fit. Not because she was worried about everyone else’s feelings. And when we start tailoring our stories based on what other people want, doesn’t that, in a way, make us just as bad as the violent fans? The truth is, no matter what we write, or how many different endings we come up with, there’s always someone that’s going to be unsatisfied. So doesn’t it make more sense to set out to please yourself instead of others?
3. Don’t Compare Yourself
One moment, I’m in the middle of writing–what I think to be–a fantastic scene, and the next, The Lord of the Rings comes on and I’m wondering if what I’m writing is worth anything. Honestly, though, can you blame me? Tolkien was a literary genius. Still, why should I base my writings on what Tolkien did? It’s already been done. That story has already been written, and no matter how many different ways you compare yourself to him, you can’t change the past. So stop dawdling on what you wish you would have thought of first, or wondering if maybe you should scrap everything you’ve already written, and just write.
4. Write Everything
What does this even mean? Maybe you’re out and about one day, or at a party and someone says/does something that resonates within you. Write about it. Carry around a pen and notepad, or even your smartphone. You never know when something may happen that you just have to write about. Even if you have a bunch of fragmented sentences on Post-It notes floating around in your purse (Me) that you never plan on writing about. I bet there’s at least one thing somewhere in there that gets the juices in your cranium flowing. Besides, you never know when you may need a good laugh from the random Post-It notes in your bag.
5. Get Inspired
How? Good question. Not all of us are in walking distance from a beautiful landscape or a five-star museum that just turns our blood warm when we see it. Everyone has their own way of inspiring themselves. For me, nothing is more motivating than going to see a movie in the theater. Don’t ask me why. There’s just something about the popcorn scented room and low-lighting that always gives me the itch to write.
6. Writer’s Block is an Excuse
How many times have you told yourself you can’t write anything because of “Writer’s Block”? Guilty. Those two words are a terrible excuse for not wanting to get anything done, even though you know you still have so far to go. This phrase has been the bane of my existence during the writing of Book Three of TLR series. So what do you do about it? Keep writing. Even if it’s only one word every day for the next two weeks, it’s fourteen words that weren’t on the page before. And if you’re still having trouble getting those gears in your head turning, refer to #5. If everyone froze each time they didn’t feel like doing something, can you imagine what the world would be like?
7. Be a Hermit
What? That’s right. In high school, I don’t know how many weekend nights I opted for staying at home and writing instead of going out with my friends. Maybe it sounds a little selfish, but when you’re always with other people, how can you ever expect to get anything productive done? I, for one, am absolutely incapable of writing and being engaged in conversation all at once. So there were times when I had to decide what I needed at that point in time. It’s ok to clock out from reality for a night when you need it. Just don’t completely forget about your friends, because you never know when you may need them. After all, many of my friends are some of my biggest supporters.
8. You are God
Before you accuse me of sacrilege, let me explain. The wonderful thing about writing is that you don’t have to follow the standard laws of the universe. Timmy is able to fly because you made him that way. Rose was able to survive getting shot fifty times because that’s how you created the world she lives in. When writing, you control the rules of the game, and also the people that are playing in it. It’s like Sims, people! Who doesn’t want unlimited power? To be able to rule and entire world? In my opinion, not having to follow the rules is one of the best parts about writing.
9. Don’t Write for Glory
This kind of goes back to the whole people-pleasing thing. You don’t just wake up one morning and decide you’re going to write a book because you’re hoping to be the next J.K. Rowling. Or at least, that’s not what happened for me. You write because there’s a burning desire inside of you to do so, not because you hope to one day make riches off of what you’ve created. And if you ever expect to create anything worth a crap, you’ll write out of selflessness. Not out of an ulterior agenda for becoming the next big thing.
10. Write What You Want
Cliché, right? It’s still some of the best advice I’ve ever been given. Why is this relevant? Too many people are way too concerned with what’s already on the market, and what publishers are looking for. Obviously, you want to write something that will entertain. But is it worth it at the cost of your integrity and imagination? Do I want to settle for writing about fallen angels and vampires (Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of these types of books out there which I adore) simply because I know they will sell well? Or do I want to take a risk and write something different, even if it doesn’t guarantee me instant success? This is the biggest question I had to ask myself at the beginning of my writing career, and at the end of each day, I could not be happier with the path I took.
So there you have it. Maybe this advice was immensely helpful for you, or maybe it did absolutely nothing. Either way, I’ll still go ahead and thank you for taking the time out of your day to read it. As I said, I never had a lot of advice to go on when I first started out, so I thought I would try to help those of you who are in the same boat.
To put it simply, writing is a tricky business. It’s one of those annoying things that may or may not ever take you anywhere; something that you may or may not ever be good at. But what does any of that matter so long as you enjoy doing it?
So why do I write?
My grandma once told me that I needed to be doing whatever it was that I woke up wanting to do every morning. For me, that was a no-brainer. I write because I can’t imagine myself doing anything else; because there’s an itch I just can’t scratch by any other method. It’s what makes me happiest.
And in the end, what does anything else matter?