Lets all take a deep breath and close our eyes. Feel the breath enter through your nose. Nice and controlled. Let the sweet air fill your lungs, slow and prolonged. Feel your ribs expand. Now exhale. Imagine carbon dioxide escaping your lungs. Release this breath through your mouth with pursed lips. Do this a few times. Imagine a calm soothing location while you do this. An icy field, crisp, cold, white upon fresh fallen snow. A brook bubbling through a verdant glade, as it emerges from a thick canopied forest, the water gently cascading over rounded boulders. Feel comfortable and relaxed now? Good. Because you need to meditate after the last year we had.
2017 ended like the shit storm it was; with the looming spectre of death hanging over us, as if the air itself colluded with evil to destroy us all in one hellish deep freeze. Now that January 1st is well behind us, I’ve gotten back into my writing routine, and feel invigorated again—it might have something to do with the temps rising to a balmy 20 degrees today. With that said, I will impart some sage—and at times manic—wisdom for writers everywhere. Because everyone else has an opinion on writing, dammit, I might as well.
Pick up a goddamn book and read. Seriously! Don’t even talk to me if you don’t read. You want to be a writer, yet you tell me you don’t read. How is this possible? I’m sure you’d love to be a professional bartender, but don’t drink. Get out from behind the bar, and let some other lush back there. I want my manhattan to taste delicious, and my reading to interest me.
You cannot excel in your craft if you don’t appreciate it. Knowing what others are writing, and how, reinforces and helps develop your style. Read what you are writing. If you pen journalistic pieces, read the newspaper and local rags. If you write science fiction, read science fiction. Read things that make you feel uncomfortable. You never know what you are missing until you try it.
What I’m telling you seems obvious—I feel as if I’m mansplaining. The truth is, there is a whole segment of the population that wants to be writers, yet does not read for enjoyment. You have to know your craft and know it well. You can’t make a worthwhile pitch for your manuscript, if you are unaware of published titles similar to yours. So, read.
Create a writing schedule and stick to it. This has been impressed upon me by every author I know. Really, your life is so busy, that you can’t stick to a schedule? I don’t want to hear it. You think you are the first person to juggle three jobs, a family, health, hobbies and write? Nope. Nope. Nope. And nope. Deal with it. Schedule and stick to it, because only you can write that story.
Follow your schedule like a zealot. What we write isn’t always good. Perfection doesn’t happen on the first draft. Get it down no matter what. That morning you were hungover and wrote for two hours—I might be projecting here—in all that gibberish, maybe only one good sentence came out. But, that one sentence may have faded into oblivion without that hungover writing session. It was worth it.
Only you can write what is inside your head. Well, at least until the CIA perfects their telepathic telegram transmitter—which is far from completed. Until that day happens, it is up to you to carve out time and write the images swirling within that foggy goop you call a mind. So strap on your tinfoil cap and get writing.
3. Write Uninhibited
Stop writing for others and start writing for yourself. Write like you don’t give a shit, because you don’t, and you shouldn’t. Your writing is yours, and yours alone.
You can’t please everyone, and won’t come close. So, please yourself. If you are hesitant, this will show in your writing. Reticence will bleed through your words onto the page and infect your piece. It will hang like a long pause after a wedding proposal, glaringly obvious and awkward.
People read you for your specific tone, your attitude, and your personality. Without this, you are nothing but an empty vessel, pumping out information, your true belief unconvincing on the subject, much like Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
4. Become An Expert
Writing requires research. And this means hours reading and investigating a subject. Anyone can become an expert. You can be self proclaimed. Sure, there is nothing wrong with that. You better have the knowledge to back this up, and a constant thirst to learn more on that subject.
You must have an interest. Transform your wealth of knowledge on this subject into an expertise. You love obscure, late 60s and early 70s dystopian sci-fi movies? Perfect. Now start digging. Read books on the topic. Having a base knowledge and passion for the topic, you’re already well on your way to becoming the expert. Now dig deep, and become the authority.
One important thing to remember, you are the expert, the authority, and this tone must come across in your writing. Use specifics, facts, and cite credible sources as much as possible. Vague ambiguities do nothing but make the reader question you knowledge.
5. Join or Start a Writer’s Group
I can’t stress this enough. I’ve become a better writer and performer for it. I feel more comfortable in my skin because of my group’s encouragement, enthusiasm, and direction. I’ve been challenged, and have opportunities now because of my fellow comrades.
Writing is lonely. It can be downright brutal. From refusal letters to silent query responses, being a writer can be defeating and despairing. Like all writers, you have an obsession, a deep-seated passion, a drive that won’t allow you to give up. Maybe all you need is a boost. Commiseration is cocktails in a dark bar, and a tally of rejection letters. It is helpful to be surrounded by like-minded individuals. Your process will be better for it.
Make sure your group is a fit for you and vice versa. Participate. You will only get from it what you put in. You aren’t using them to edit your work, you are collaborating with a group of artists, who are passionate and love their craft. So find those writers as quirky, idiosyncratic, and eccentric as you are, and never let them go. No, seriously, find a deep well, a basket affixed to the end of a rope, a poodle, and some lotion, and never let them go.
6. Find Your Muse
A writer is like a drunk friend. They are great to be around if you are drunk as well, but, if you are sober, they can be super annoying and frustrating. As writers, we don’t mind each other’s company, because we are either drunk all the time on liquor or words.
My mind is constantly churning out plots, characters, and scenes. Ideas are always welling to the surface, especially at the most inopportune moments. I’m a vocal person. I think best by bouncing ideas off people. I begin to formulate my world’s by explaining my thoughts aloud. This can become annoying for many people. The solution, find a muse.
My muse doesn’t just listen, but helps formulate and coalesce my thoughts, as well as notices plot holes, helping sew them up. Many times conversations have planted the seed for a future idea. Many a car ride or bar session has ended with a composition book full of notes, interesting facts, characters, and plot. And, for all that is holy, don’t forget to buy your muse rounds of drinks for all they put up with. Keep them in liquor, and they’ll kindly listen for ages.
In 2018, set a goal, and hold yourself to it. Write for yourself and love what you write. And goddammit, read.