I’m asked this question at every workshop, class or panel discussion I’ve ever given… and it’s a tough one. How do you give advice on something like this when you know nothing about a person’s circumstances? I’ll give it a go here, but would love to hear from you about how you find time to write in between all your other responsibilities.
If you love to write and it’s a part of who you are, then it’s important. It’s essential. So make it part of your ‘self-care’ (I think that phrase is replacing ‘me-time’. Even if only 10 minutes a day, in your lunch break, on your commute, first thing in the morning; sit down and write. Just write. Practice, REGULAR practice, makes perfect. Trust me, a little every day soon mounts up. It’s the habit that makes the difference.
Try your hand at short stories, or even flash fiction, that way you will feel accomplished at finishing a piece (and if anyone tells you that writing short pieces is a cop out tell them to f@#$ off!). You will hone your skills and writing effective, descriptive pieces in few words is a great skill.
Take a class. There are lots of creative writing classes out there, find one that suits your schedule, budget and talents. You’ll get guidance, feedback and support and make new writing friends.
Join (or start) a writers group where you have to commit to submitting work each month and giving and receiving constructive feedback. This can be a great support and impetus to get writing!
It’s not always easy to find the time to write, but it’s important to you so ask for support from those nearest and dearest to you. We need to hear each other’s stories. We need your story. So get writing!
I’m still editing my next novel, So the Doves… of course.
Editing is the writing, all writing is rewriting. Right?
And you think it would be easier than writing the first draft. Shouldn’t it? The material is already there, you aren’t having to create a new world, new characters with complexities and drives and frailties and strengths. You’re not navigating the plot or wondering how to finish.
By now you’re polishing and smoothing, getting rid of excess, honing the language, teasing out the key dynamics of the scenes… aren’t you?
Except I’m not. I’m tinkering. I’m wrangling sentences till they dry and crumble. I’m beginning to hate my novel. I can’t see it clearly, and I feel lost in all the words. I’m too close. I read other authors and hold their work up as mirror against my own… and the reflection isn’t pretty. At all.
I want to give up.
Talking to other writers, my students and academics, I know I’m not alone here.
So what to do?
Take a break from it. Put it away, for at least a month.
Read, walk, walk TV, think, laugh. Live.
Share your work with trusted peers (even if you have a wonderful editor, like I have, I still like to get thoughts and constructive feedback from readers I trust and respect)
Print it out and read it through from start to finish. Don’t be tempted to start picking at it piecemeal.
Does it work as a whole? Any plot/structure problems to work on? Fix those first.
Read your feedback from peers/editor. Does it resonate? What will you incorporate into your edit?
Now open the doc, and start the edit – start on the big stuff (copy editing comes last)
Don’t compare your work to anyone else’s, you’ll feel miserable (or the opposite, cocky, which is worse) and it’s of no use to you now. This is your work, so it should be different.
Put it away again. Follow point 2. Let it rest.
How is it? I’m willing to bet it’s much better than you think…
But don’t be disheartened if you need to edit again, and again.
As so often seems to be the case, just recently I encountered the whole life imitating art and vice versa cliché. I was stuck, in both my personal life and with my work, the wheels were spinning but I had no purchase – I was burning hot and running out of juice. So, I flipped my perspective in both areas.
I had a wake up call of sorts that shook me up and reminded me that I have much to be grateful for, that I needed to clear the complacent gunk out of my eyes and re-see my life for all its joys and richness. I needed, in short, to see what I had from an outsider’s viewpoint to appreciate what I have.
This lesson carried into work too – my current project, a novel, has been stagnating, getting more overwrought and overworked as I tried to ‘fix’ it. So I changed perspective, literally, rewriting key scenes from another character’s point of view… And it worked, at least it’s worked in so far as there’s life and space in the text again. The first draft is finished and I’m editing and redrafting.
So there’s the lesson – in life and writing – flip your perspective and see the world from another POV. It works.