It’s true. Most of us are totally clueless.
Don’t worry — I don’t mean most of us don’t know how to write a good story. The average aspiring writer has consumed enough material (books, movies, TV, etc) and has tried to write enough things that they have a pretty good idea of what makes a good story and what doesn’t.
But here’s the problem with “being a writer”: your job doesn’t end when you’re done writing the story.
What the heck are you supposed to do then?
Oh, of course there are guides out there. Books that tell you how to increase your chances of getting published. Websites dedicated to teaching you how to be better than every other writer you’re competing against (if that’s possible). Blogs that try to give you a realistic perspective on how hard writing is but also encourage you to keep trying anyway (like this one!).
But … is what everyone tells you is the “right” way to do it REALLY the “right” way?
And … what if you do all the things the guides say and you STILL don’t get published or even get a written rejection in response to any submissions?
Here’s the good news: If you feel like you’re just wandering around, writing whatever comes into your head, and have started worrying that you’re doing everything wrong and don’t even know if writing is what you’re supposed to be doing at all … you are not alone.
I’m pretty sure that most of us at least have moments or days when we feel this way. If we don’t feel like it 95 percent of the time.
Why? Because this whole writing thing is complicated. Even though a lot of us like to pretend we have it all together and are all following the same general rules, we’re all basically just doing everything we think might work until a few things actually do.
But maybe that’s not a terrible thing.
There’s nothing wrong with trying. As long as you make an effort to change your habits/strategies when they stop being effective.
And not trying anything is a lot worse than trying to figure out what works, one thing at a time. I refuse to call people writers if they aren’t actually, you know … writing.
Who cares if it feels like you’re not doing it right? The only way to figure out what works for you is to do a bunch of different things while simultaneously resisting the urge to quit.
It’s also important not to worry about what other people are doing … at least so much so that you’re doing less work because you’re too fixated on everyone else. Pay attention. Be informed and involve yourself in the community. But don’t obsess. Do your thing. If it’s not working, feel free to ask for advice.
It’s OK to be unsure, to wonder if you’re going in the right direction or not. Eventually, we all, somehow, figure it out. Some of us even try to take what we’ve learned and help other people slowly figure it out, too.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.