There is an entire industry built around telling you what and how to write. Heck, I’m part of it, and proud to be. But I also understand that sometimes it’s daunting or even downright overwhelming to wade through it all and forge your own path. Which school or master do you listen to? What if you take the “wrong” advice and miss the “right” bits? I thought I’d cut to the chase for you and break it down into one single piece of advice which, if you do this, is the only thing that guarantees success for any published writer:
Write your butt off.
Forgive my crude phrasing. I know it’s not very elegant, but neither is the sad, unfulfilled feeling that comes with not writing. No matter what time of day, how many words you get out, whether you write for yourself or an imaginary adoring audience; if you need your lucky shark tooth, six cups of coffee, the blessing of a priest, your baby blanket, complete silence or a Mariachi band playing–set up the circumstances necessary to make yourself write. Consider the possibility that all you really need is something to write on and a few free minutes.
• The more often you write, no matter how long, the more likely you are to stick with it
• Thwart the “20 second rule” that can make or break your success by keeping the instruments of writing near or with you at all times.
• Stop seeking validation for writing. Do it to validate yourself.
Revise your butt off.
Once you’ve produced all that magnificent, burning hot writing, what now? Now you revise it. And revise it. Get to the heart of it. Make meaning. Make it pretty. Polish the sentences until they resonate like church bells. Cut out the chaff. Get honest with yourself. Revision doesn’t have to be hard. Make it pleasurable by picking small pieces to work on. Imagine yourself burnishing a rough crystal you found caked in mud. There’s pleasure in scraping off the dirt to reveal what shines. Take time away after production of the work if you can’t revise without suffering.
Still need more?
• Read widely–across genres, styles, and authors
• Seek feedback from competent folks who can be honest with you
• Be brave enough to take the critique you solicit
• Separate your ego from your work to view it more objectively
• Talking about writing is not writing.
• Thinking about writing is not writing.
• Reading this post is not writing.