You are a writer, yes? I’m sure that at some point, you’ve probably wanted to give up, flip a table, or go sit in a corner while the submit button collects dust.
Sound familiar? Good. You’re in the “write” place. 😀 Don’t shoot me for the pun please.
If not, who are you and who sent you?
Now, I’m talking about this because I’m a big believer of beliefs playing a big part in succeeding at anything: writing, gardening, being the world’s best dog food taster (yes, it’s a legit job that pays decently), etc.
And if there’s anything that I’ve learned by observing, interacting with, watching, listening, reading about whatever-the-hell verb you want to substitute here…
It’s that creative, smart people are usually the prime candidates for holding harmful beliefs about themselves. And that’s never good for our creativity.
What are these beliefs?
1. “My idea is just too/ weird/useless/ insert self-depreciation here”
Let me tell you something.
There is some really bizarre shit out there.
The chances that your specific idea for your novel is too weird, is actually very slim. Controversial, now maybe.
But too weird or useless? Dear reader…
Do you not know that right now that somewhere out there, an average person is walking out to their mailbox right now–and they’re gonna open it, expecting all their usual maily-things, but what they’re going to get is…
…a bag of edible dicks?
Sound weird enough to you? Good. Now whenever you catch yourself thinking, “Man, no one is going to want to read my stuff…”
Think. Someone out there…
Wait let me back up. Enough someone(s) out there, thought the idea of using fifteen of their well earned dollars to send bags of dicks out into the world was a good investment.
Your idea is probably fine.
2. “My writing needs to be a/b/c/d/efghkjlj perfect before I hit send”
No. Let’s all say it together.
Perfect is a myth. And a very unhelpful one because it often paralyzes people at the beginning and makes them give up before they’re finished.
Unless your writing skill is absolutely abysmal, you don’t need to revise a draft 50+ times. (A scene, maybeish. But a whole draft?) And if you do need to revise that many times for some reason, you should probably be hitting the fundamentals books instead before you touch that draft again.
A story needs to be “presentable”. You know like when you go outside to do something. You want to look like a million bucks without actually having the bucks. Same concept here. Look perfect, but not actually be perfect.
Now what does presentable mean?
- No careless errors.
- No huge plot holes
- Decent cover
- It makes some damn sense
- Characters are not just walking cardboard with duct tape smattered on them
- Sentences don’t make a reader’s eyes hurl
- No lawsuits waiting to happen
- Any other glaring problem that hurts sales and reviews that I’m blanking out on
If you’ve done this, you are probably fine.
3. “I can’t come up with good ideas. They’re all taken.”
I used to think that too, but then I came up with my Extreme Writing Workout routine. I don’t recommend trying it at home unless you’re Kobe Bryant-serious about practicing writing but here’s what it looks like roughly:
Warm Up x2, Sentence Beginnings Practice( Time, Place, Verb, Noun, Adjective), Paragraph Practice, Voice Sketch x5, New Words Practice x5, Taste x5, Sound x5, Touch x5, Sight x5, Smell x5, Sentence Practice (Simple, Compound, Complex, Compound-complex, Setting Sketch x5, Setting Peel x5, Emotional Metaphor Factory x5, Random Metaphor Factory x5, Character Sketch x5, Character Peel x5, Blind Journey, Change It Up x5, Object Sketch x5, Object Peel x5, Dialogue Sketch x5, Culture Sketch x5, Culture Peel x5, Scene Sketch, Cooldown x2
TL;DR: It’s a lot of targeted exercise shit that is probably enough to kill a normal human being with sanity. But this routine takes me nets me somewhere from about 17-20 pages worth of ideas overtime I do it, which is per day. But I’ll go into detail about this routine another day.
The main concern to get back to is that idea opportunities are not limited. They are endless.
They’re just hard to grasp sometimes. But they’re even harder to grasp, if your brain isn’t used to just spit-firing ideas on demand. You don’t have to do the crazy things that I do. Generate ideas in whatever way you like. You do you.
4. “My writing isn’t good”
Even if this is true, it’s not helpful to think it. The great thing about writing and any skill in the world is that you can improve.
My writing improved very quickly from being total sucky garbo to being actually tolerable in two years because I sat down, said no more fooling around, and actually got serious about learning the craft of writing. I read books on the separate parts of craft and I read authors that were way better than me until I couldn’t tolerate the former and could get by learning on the latter.
Now here’s the bad news, insta-quick writing improvement is not possible unless you have some extremely sick work ethic powering you through rigorous training. Improvement in writing that lasts and in consistent takes a lot of practice.
I personally wouldn’t advise using a WIP as practice unless it’s like a first draft and even then I still hesitate to encourage that because writing your story/poem/ project is different than practicing a particular skill.
If you saw your favorite professional basketball player practicing free throws in the middle of a real game that was going on, you’d think he was a moron. Just like how you wouldn’t practice your huge important speech in front of the audience the day of your big performance.
You practice separately so the performance is perfect.
Now I’m not going to say that you have to do this or that you have to do that. Like I said before, you do you. Some people don’t have time for huge lists. Some people do. Some people are eager to write their WIP and are too impatient for exercises. It’s all good.
If the book makes money, no one cares what weaves you snatched to do it.
But I will say that you can’t just bang face to keyboard and expect to improve your base level writing skill, which is why I can’t one hundred percent advise practicing on a first draft because first drafts are exactly that, banging face to a keyboard. You have to spread your focus way too thin.
Sure you will still technically improve, but it’s harder to track because you have no direction with your practice. And because it’s harder to track, it feels slower and may eventually lead you to give up because it seems like you’re not making visible progress.
5. “I’ll just wait for inspiration/tomorrow/ some item”
Watch out people, I’m going to be blunt.
Excuses. Excuses. Excuses. Let me break them down one by one.
Inspiration is not reliable. Just like ex-girlfriends, boyfriends, and the friend that said he’ll pay you back and still hasn’t.
There is one condition where it does become a little more reliable. And it’s when you sit down and write consistently.
Now as for the tomorrow thing.
Tomorrow is a myth. Every day you go to sleep, the calendar date changes but you’re still in the present. This is why tomorrow doesn’t work so well. You don’t want to write now, but you live in constant “nowness”. Hence, you’ll probably never feel like it.
But more importantly, you’ll never get your wasted yesterday back.
Now lastly, waiting for some item to write…
No. No. No. To the power of Grumpy Cat squared. No.
I feel like this is worse than everything above combined. No external object gives or takes away the power to write. Now there are some exceptions, I will admit. Sometimes your computer has to go to the shop. Sometimes you can’t bring it with you and you don’t have a cloud back up to access or a flash drive copy. Whatever the strange case, this is fine. (Though last I heard, pen and paper works fine still~)
What I mean is when someone says they need drugs/alcohol/ coffee/tea/ some external substance/ body conditions to write. Or claim that it “makes them” creative.
I will concede that maybe you become more creative. But to be uncreative if you don’t have these crutches?
Bullshit. You can’t lose your creativity. Unless you hand that power over with an unproductive mentality.
And now we’ve come full circle. I hope that this helped with some concerns that you might’ve had about your own writing. Even if you know these, sometimes it’s good to be reminded. I know sometimes I slip too. 😦
But alas it is late and there is peppermint bark afoot!
See ya’ll next time! And remember that whenever you’re feeling writing isn’t going well…
Someone out there is probably eating a bag of dicks.