So I have been reading ‘Swallowed by a Whale’ which is a book all about writing by writers and I have come to a few conclusions about writing.
1) Write. You should write. There is no avoiding it. Even if you dislike it. You have to write to become a writer. Many say each day. Or regularly. The amount of time does not matter or the word count. The important thing is to do some writing. Not to put it off. Procrastinate. Clean the tiles in the kitchen with a toothbrush. After all, that blank page will not fill itself.
2) Thinking counts as writing. Daydreaming counts as writing. Going for a walk daydreaming about thinking about writing counts as writing. It is important to do. It solves writing problems. It gives your mind space to create. No need to ask permission. Just do it. I find walking somewhere or sitting in a pub always works for me. Try it.
3) Adverbs are out. And adjectives as well. Exclamation marks for some reason! I have no idea why. They just say they are. Words will be next. You have been warned.
4) Where you write doesn’t matter. At a table. On the tube. In a specially constructed hut with all your nice things that someone else paid for (I wish). I tend to write in pubs. I find if I am away from household things I’m not feeling guilty about the things I haven’t done. I can give myself permission to write. When I’m in the house and writing I feel neglectful.
5) Get your first draft down and don’t worry too much about errors. Do not start rewriting your first few chapters over and over again as much of it will be cut. Mind you, I don’t follow that rule at the moment. I am writing a chapter, taking an enforced break, re-writing that chapter, write a new one. I find it gets me back in to writing as I can’t always write every day. It continues my flow and allows me to think of ideas to add to a chapter and act on it within a short time frame. I’m no good at making novel writing notes. Mine would be too brief so completely incomprehensible when going back to a chapter. Or so detailed, they would take longer than the novel. My approach works for me. It may work for you. Try it. Think about. Then do it your way.
6) Do not compare yourself to other writers or try to be another writer. You can’t. You can only be you. Their books you read have had a lot of time spent on so your first draft won’t be like that. And their lived experience makes them what they are and how they write. If you try to copy, it will be a pale imitation. Write you. Do not worry about other writers’ success. Think about your own triumphs. Set yourself small manageable goals. It is the nature of writing that you will never be happy with what you have achieved. Sorry. But we are riddled with self doubt. Even great writers like Dickens thought their writing might not be up to scratch.
7) Do not read reviews. Positive ones will only enlarge the ego and make you think you are a master of your craft and don’t need to improve. This leads to stagnation. Or you will think you are terrible and stay awake every night thinking about them. Just be happy if someone buys your book. If only just once. Someone liked the idea. You.
9) If you’re writing you are a writer. No one says to an unexhibited artist they’re not an artist or unrecorded musician they are not a musician. If you create you are a creator. You don’t need permission or official recognition to be a writer. Are you writing? Then you’re a writer. It’s that simple.
10) Writers like lists. They’re quick to write.
Thoughts based on Swallowed by A Whale (How to survive the writing life),’Edited by Huw Lewis-Jones.