Writing is hard.
Dara Girard’s book, The Writer Behind the Words, has a section named Six Hard Truths. Do you know the first truth? It is – The first truth is, “It doesn’t get easier.”
The professional life of a creative writer, no matter how successful, will be filled with stress. There’s always the pressure to sell, to write what’s popular, to be better than your peers. No matter how long you’ve been writing, there will be times when you get stuck, get depressed, get rejected, and question ourselves.
As a writing coach, Dara has some faith that writing can be taught. I also believe there can be practical strategies that lead to better writing. You are more likely to achieve your goals and achieve them faster when you have a plan. Some writers say that it was luck; that they just wrote, and the opportunities came to them. I don’t buy it.
Successful people have some type of goal or plan. It may not be a 60 page, detailed breakdown of every minute and every dollar you plan to spend for the next year, but there should be some kind of goal, plan, direction, or mission guiding you. Dara’s presented a few ideas for how to develop a strategy. I’ve picked five of my faves.
Find a role model.
Study a living writer whose writing and career you admire. Research their career history and the steps of their journey from the beginning to where they currently are. If you can contact them via email, phone, or social media, that’s even better. You can ask specific questions to help you develop your own game plan.
Gather industry news.
Girard suggests small doses of information. This is a good idea because, as discussed earlier, a flood of information may have you spinning your wheels without actually getting you anywhere. I think small doses are good because they give you concrete, actionable steps to take in a particular direction.
Work towards your mission statement.
Do something every day to make it real. This requires that you write a mission statement. Now you’ll be able to identify a direction for your writing career. This strategy also requires daily action. Even if you identify where you want to go in your mission statement, you must take action to get there. I suggest writing a general mission statement (a few sentences or a paragraph) and then listing intermediate steps, you would have to take to get there, like a map.
Apparently, writers can suffer from too much inspiration, known as a creative flood. Unlike writer’s block, writers have no problems finding ideas or starting new projects when they’re experiencing a creative flood. However, too many ideas can make finishing any of these many projects seem impossible.
Read like a Writer.
Get your magnifying glasses and microscopes! Your scalpels and fine-tooth combs! It’s time to read like a writer!
Call it a close reading.
You actually get to study your favorite piece of writing.
- Close reading is more than just reading to understand or reading to enjoy.
- A close reading is a study to discover and learn the intricate workings of a piece of writing.
- This process is especially important for writers because it’s how we learn more about our craft.
- And despite what you may be thinking, examining a piece of writing doesn’t take all the joy out of it.
- If the piece is any good, a close reading will only deepen our appreciation for the work and help us see the magic, the dexterity, the surprises, the connections, the truths that lie beneath the many layers that great works are known for.
I think great writing begs close reading because great writing has depth and doesn’t give away all its wonders in an initial or surface reading.
Clearing out the Mind
You’ll notice that the world is full of cliches, but your writing shouldn’t be.
So why do these cliches persist, and how can we stop them?
I want new writers to keep blogging, to keep digging and exploring, to keep revising their thoughts and their articulation. One reason, so much writing is uninteresting and unoriginal is that we fail to keep writing. We under-write. One of my earliest creative writing teachers said we should write several pages more than what we planned on keeping. That way, we’d be able to find worthy material amid all crap.
One that speaks to the idea of overwriting is “sufficient thought.” You should actually think rigorously about what you write to “achieve a post that really explores and develops your subject.”
You don’t have to stop learning from pioneer writers and keep trying.