I bet you came here thinking this would be a list of all the right and wrong things to do if you want to get published, or make money writing, or start a blog, or submit your work to a magazine. Not today. Today, there is no right. There is no wrong. There is only necessity. Unlike most of the posts that go up on this blog, the tips here are not optional. If you want to make it, you must do these things.
You must stop saying and start doing.
How long have you been telling people you are going to write a novel? Or a play or a song or a book of poems? That’s great; confidence is important. But you need to stop telling everyone what you are going to do and start actually doing it. The longer you spend saying “I’m going to be a writer,” the less likely you are to actually ever become one. Writers write. Don’t talk about all the masterpieces you are going to create: sit down and create them. No one is going to do it for you. You have to put in the work. You have to spend the time and energy.
Stop asking and evaluating and learn by doing it wrong the first time.
Imagine you are going to try riding on a skateboard for the first time. You have never even tried to stand on one before; you have no idea what to do. So you buy yourself a new skateboard, the best one you can find (according to all the reading you did beforehand about the best skateboards on the market) and head over to the local skate park, where all the more experienced skaters hang out. You sit on the edge of the action and watch how they skate for awhile, analyzing every detail – so when you’re ready to give it a try, you’ll know exactly what to do.
You do this every day for a few weeks. Finally, today, you decide to try standing on your skateboard. You can do that. You try pushing yourself forward, go a few feet and then catch yourself before falling to the ground. What do you do next? You have two options: go up to one of the more experienced skaters and ask them to watch you skate, to critique you and tell you everything you are doing wrong, or put your skateboard back on the ground and try again. And again. And again.
You cannot write five pages of a story on your first try and expect every writer who has been doing this way longer than you to be able to tell you how to make it publishable. You are going to have to try, fail and try again, many times. Someone else can’t do that for you. You can spend your days moving a few feet forward and running to the nearest skater to ask for help, or you could learn from your mistakes, practice and get better over time, by working hard, on your own.
Stop worrying about the big hurdles when you haven’t even gotten over the small ones yet.
I see posts in writing groups all the time debating whether or not to use pen names, the best writing software, how to find agents when a book isn’t even finished being written yet. While all these and more are valid questions, and I don’t want to discourage anyone from asking questions, you can’t spend all your energy and time worrying about things that will never be legitimate concerns unless you have a finished (written AND edited) book to work with. Focus on writing first … and everything else later.
Now, friends … get back to writing.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.
Image courtesy of Flickr.