Books, blogs and courses offer valuable advice and guidance for writers, but to make the most of them, there are four vital habits we have to establish for ourselves.
BY TRISH NICHOLSON
1. Create a writing support network
Putting words onto paper or the screen is something we do alone and it can be lonely. Not only that, inspiration comes not from staring at a blank space waiting for the muse, but from engaging with life past and present, observing, recording, thinking and relating, as well as drawing deeply on our inner experience.
Part of this engagement is creating links with other writers through online-forums, local writing groups and social media interactions; companionship on the journey that offers mutual support, feedback and stimulation. We need this. Writing alone does not mean writing in isolation. So create your personal network.
2. Be patient. Building a writing career takes time
Patience is not only a virtue – it is a necessity for sanity, and for reaching your potential as a writer. We all know how long it can take to hear back from magazine editors or publishers, even when we stay positive and respond to a rejection by sending our work straight out to the next place on our list.
Patience applies to our writing, too.
We need to give our stories (and inspiration) time to ferment and mature. Sending off competition entries or publishing before a story has had enough polishing, simply wastes energy and creates frustration; it doesn’t do our reputations much good either.
There is nothing wrong with procrastination if that means there is still room to improve a story and we’re thinking it through. Set a realistic pace – offer only your absolute best.
3. Give self-doubt the boot.
Self-doubt, that carping demon that crouches on your shoulder, is a writer’s worst enemy. Don’t let the critter settle.
Creativity is not a rare gift, nor is it confined to celebrity authors. Brain science confirms we are all born with the capacity for creativity; it is part of our mental wiring.
But, like all our faculties, creativity operates best with regular exercise. Delete the word ‘mistake’ from your vocabulary – experiment, explore, express yourself; there are tools for tidying up later.
Time and space – the rarest of commodities for us all – may have to be negotiated or plundered, but you must secure them. The time available may vary according to patterns of work in your day job or what others in the household are doing.
Make the most of it when you have it. Try to guard a small slice of each day, even if it’s only 20-30 minutes, when you write about anything – to develop the habit and talent of expressing thoughts into written words. It’s a brief daily exercise for toning the writing muscles.
And create a small space somewhere in your home that is yours. It doesn’t have to be large – take the door off a cupboard and sit at a shelf if you have to. In your mind it will become a space associated with focus, with words and with inspiration.
These are some of the things I talk about in my new book Inside Stories for Writers and Readers, along with the various elements of story like character, theme and voice. It’s a companion, sharing also fifteen of my short stories with their backgrounds and critiques. And there are detailed articles, for example, choosing a title, portraying character through objects, revealing a plot through dialogue and giving mutual critiques without losing your friends. If you would enjoy the company, you can find more about Inside Stories on my website.
We learn to write by writing, reading, studying and writing some more, but I’ve come to realise over a long writing career, how important it is to sort out the basics before we can truly develop our craft.
About the Author:
Trish Nicholson began writing 30 years ago as a columnist and feature writer. More recently, she has authored travelogues on the Philippines and Bhutan, and the cautionary tale: From Apes to Apps: How Humans Evolved as Storytellers and Why it Matters.
Trish is passionate about writing short stories, some of which have won international competitions and been published in anthologies. Trish lives in the ‘winterless’ far north of New Zealand and has a tree house in her garden.
Read her blog: www.trishnicholsonswordsinthetreehouse.com