It’s important to take a break from your writing and look at what’s going on around you. We live in a crazy world, and there’s a lot of cause for concern. But if you’re a writer, especially a writer of speculative fiction like me, the current world situation, and the direction we are heading, is an amazing gift to spark your creativity and push you to write. There’s endless material to inspire your writing. Much of the world is out of control. Technology, politics, the environment, all of it is a blur of change. It’s frightening, but it’s also exhilarating. My suggestion for writers is that they embrace the world without fear and make it part of their writing projects. Readers are hungry for writing that responds to the everyday issues that come up in our news feeds. Whether you do historical fiction or space opera or paranormal thrillers, a little time perusing the news will benefit your writing and your readers.
Here’s another plug for any of you wanting to start writing, but having a hard time finding the motivation.
I do my best thinking when I write. There’s something about creating words in my mind, feeling them flow through my fingers and appear on the screen in front of your eyes that turns my brain on. Lots of people have noted this in the past, but I can attest to its truth. Writing stimulates my mind and causes ideas to start flowing. I used to think that going on long walks was the best way to work out challenges in my life, but I’ve discovered a better way. Write your way through the challenges. It doesn’t matter much whether I use a pen and pad or a laptop. I just sit down and start writing about whatever is on my mind.
Try it. You’ll be surprised to discover that solutions and ideas will form in your mind, almost immediately.
That’s the power of words. The power of writing.
A new writer asked for some tips today on how to get started. Here was my response:
First, get going on a writing project. Decide that you are going to write a collection of short stories or poems or maybe even a novel. Just start with a simple idea. Maybe even a single sentence. And then just write and write. Once you get a few pages into your project, it will take on a life of it’s own. Then just keep the momentum going by writing every day until you get to a place that feels like the end. It may be 5 pages or 500 pages. Don’t expect the first draft to be great. All first drafts are garbage, but they are important. A first draft is like the clay that a sculptor uses. A sculptor needs clay on the table in front of them to make something wonderful, and a writer needs words on the pages to revise and rewrite and tweak until they have something wonderful!
Second, write every day. Figure out a time that works well for you, and then just write during that time. It may be hard at first, but keep it up for about a month and it will become a habit.
Third, keep a notebook of ideas. As a writer, ideas will come to you at all times of the day. Keep the notebook (or iPhone or paper or whatever) handy so that you can write down ideas for writing that come to mind. If you don’t write them down, you’ll forget. Just write them down and read over them every once in a while.
Fourth, ignore the feelings you may have that you aren’t a very good writer. You’ve already demonstrated that you are. As you write, you may have feelings of failure and want to quite. Every writer faces the same thing. Just ignore those little voices that tell you that you can’t write, and keep writing!
This blog post is for everyone that has ever had the following thought cross their mind:
I should write a novel!
Can everyone write a bestselling novel? Probably not. It takes a certain amount of native talent and lots of dedication to learn the skills and put in the time. As Sam Mussabini said in Chariots of Fire, “You can’t put in what God left out.”
But, here’s the thing. If you have a desire to write, I think that means there’s an idea inside of you trying to get out. It might not be the Next Big Thing, but maybe it will be. You’ll never know unless you give writing a try. Most people, after they start writing for others to read, find that they have a lot to say. The ideas start flowing. They usually end up saying I should have started sooner! So you need to start now. Don’t worry about getting lots of training before you start writing. Don’t worry about doing lots of preparation. Those are all excuses that just put off writing. Start writing first, and then once you’ve established the habit, you can think about taking writing courses and polishing your craft.
The most important task is to start writing now.
There may be a novel inside of you trying to get out.
My rant from the last few blog posts continues.
As you may have gathered, I’m a proponent of encouraging people everywhere to try writing. Writing is an intensely mental exercise. For the person doing the writing, stringing words together into sentences has the effect of triggering new ideas and creating clarity out of chaos. A mind that is used to writing is a mind that is used to thinking. We need more clear thinkers. On the other hand, readers get exposed to new ideas and a chance to embrace new truths. It’s a win-win situation.
I fully understand a lot of writing is junk. A lot of what get’s published on Amazon by indie writers is pretty bad. And that’s okay. With so many readers, the good stuff will rise to the top. More writing may mean more bad writing, but it also means more great writing from (as yet) undiscovered writers.
And I welcome that.
“Wow, what a great novel! I wish I could write like that.”
Who hasn’t had this thought pop into their head?
Maybe some of you have actually held onto that thought for years and finally got to the point where you plan to pick up a pen or grab your laptop and start writing. And maybe a small fraction of you have actually written words for others to read. If so, good for you! Maybe you’ve even caught yourself dreaming that someday you might become a Great Writer. In case you’re wondering, Great Writer means “best-selling fiction author.” There’s a list for that. Right here:
One of the first things that strikes me about that list is how small it is. Only 84 in all. Some of my favorite authors are not on the list. Ray Bradbury, William Gibson, Dan Simmons. But the fact remains that there aren’t that many people who have been accepted into the pantheon of Great Writers.
And, forgive me for being judgmental, but I’m guessing that most of the living writers on the List want to keep it short. They want to keep all the billions of readers in the world thinking that there are only a few great writers, the ones with the flashy end displays at bookstores. And, especially, they want you, the aspiring writer, to feel deep in your bones that writing is Really Hard and only a few people blessed with Extraordinary Talent are able to do it. They want you to think you can’t. They want you to not even try. And there’s a whole industry dedicated to perpetuating the myth that you will never be a Great Writer no matter how hard you try.
That, my friend, is the Writing Industrial Complex.
The bottom line is that a subtle message of a lot of books and courses on how to do creative writing is to convince people that it’s Really Hard and that they shouldn’t even try.
My advice? Don’t let the Writing Industrial Complex stop you from writing.