An online friend recently asked me for some writing advice. She’s new to writing and wants to get going on writing a book. She asked me how I found my writing voice and I thought Well, I found it through writing. When she asked me how long I’d been writing I did the math and was surprised at the answer:
Of all of my different interests, hobbies, adventures and explorations, writing is definitely the one I’ve done the most consistently, and had the most success at.
I’m really a writer.
Something about the realization that I’ve been doing this for 43 years made me feel really wise, experienced, and sage-y. So, since I’m such an experienced big shot writer now, gather round, children, and I’ll drop some knowledge (sorry, been listening to Hamilton NON-STOP).(The only royalty-free picture I could find of Alexander Hamilton “writing”.)
MY ADVICE FOR WRITERS
- WRITE – Writers write. Talking about writing is not writing. Worrying about writing is not writing. Only writing is writing. (Why do you write like you’re running out of time? Auuugh…these Hamilton earworms are eating my brain.)
- READ – Subscribe to Writers Digest. Read every issue. Read books about writing. Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Stephen King’s On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft are well-respected classics. Also, read like hell in the genre you aspire to write in.
- TAKE CLASSES – Look for local classes, online classes (WritersDigest.com has a lot.) Go to conferences. This is where you start to learn about craft.
- MAKE MISTAKES – You are supposed to make mistakes. You are supposed to write crap. That’s how you learn. Perfectionism will paralyze you.
- ACCEPT CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM – Most people who show their work to others and say “Give me your honest opinion.” do not mean it, even though they think they do. What they actually mean is “Tell me it’s good.” The challenge here is learning whose opinion is actually worth something and whose isn’t. It’s easy to get in with a group of other inexperienced writers and critique each other’s stuff, then start editing your work according to other’s opinions. How do you know who’s opinion is worthwhile and who’s isn’t? You don’t, generally. But if that person is an experienced author/editor/publisher in the field you want to work in, that’s going to give them more credibility than someone else who hasn’t written anything. Constructive criticism makes you a better writer.
That’s it. Gotta go write now, because I’m not sure if writing about writing counts as writing.
(That last sentence makes my brain hurt if I look at it too long.)