Art of Fiction: Practice

There are as many different kinds of writers as there are the books they produce. While all share the vanity of self-possessed flowers, each blooms with a unique fuse.

Being a Writer

Writers wore a certain kind of clothes and lived in a certain fashion. And to my way of thinking there was a particular way to be a writer. All of this is hogwash, I now know, but I allow that it once rang true and might even still be so for beginning writers today.
Old habits die hard and sometimes stereotypes live much longer afterwards; after all it is work to dispel stereotype, and the happy coincidental byproduct is the creation of new habits.
The first thing to help you on becoming a writer is to simply be one. This isn’t to mean you need to fake anything until you make it, rather it means you should write. Type on a keyboard, write in longhand, anything. Just write. As much as possible.

Write

This is the first and the only step required to begin a writing practice. Here are some other tips which can be adopted or ignore.

Read

I would suggest that you read every thing you can get your hands on, but I know this sounds a little too zealous. It is not presumptuous however to assume you are now a reader; you read books in prose both short and long. You might even have some favorite authors. If you don’t read it has to be said you are in the wrong business wanting to be a writer. Reading is completed writing, it helps in a back and forth way to become a better writer. From reading the works of others you learn from their mistakes and their successes (not in a bestselling author kind of way, but at the level of the writing in enticing a reader’s senses). Carve out time every day to read. Anything.

Being a writer means being the writer you are meant to be, not someone else’s idea of what a writer is

Time

Pause for a moment for some self-reflection and during this interlude ask yourself honestly what time of day are you at your best. This is not to say your best is anything other than a time when you feel the most yourself. For example, I am at my best fairly early in the morning. This doesn’t mean I could hold great conversations with you or build a yurt; for me it means it’s the time I feel is the best for writing. I can concentrate, I feel good about getting work done early and I tend to be able to sit for longer spells in the morning. I have learned over the years the exact calibration of what times exactly work for me. Too early and I’m only kidding myself. Too groggy. Too late and I begin to panic my best material has been swallowed by the day. Each of us has a specific time. Pick yours. Late at night? Sure? Middle of the day? Have at it. Pick yours. And you needn’t worry if you write every single day or only when you get around to it. While I encourage the every day practice, there are plenty of very successful writers out there who don’t write every day, but only write when and if the nexus of idea and desire coincide. I’m trying to avoid saying when inspiration hits them, because the bottom line folks is that writing is work. Hate to break it to you, but it’s work. Nothing compels you to write, but you wanting to get the work done. Inspiration will assist in spurts, but mostly, and by this I mean really all the time, you’re on your own kiddo. Really. Sometimes it’s the hardest work you’ve ever done. Other times — you are totally aligned with the magnificent forces of the universe and all that pours out of you is pure gold. Just don’t let the bad days dissuade you nor let the good days give you the impression Jane Austen has met her match.

Space

It is equally important to my thinking, which might not be your own, to have a regular space to spend some time every day to sit down and be your best while writing. For me, it’s a desk in a quiet part of the house. For you it could be in a busy coffeehouse or on the deck of a houseboat. I don’t really care. Ironing board, kitchen table, in a hut in the forest. Whatever. But what is important here is that you decide where you want to be when you are writing. It is important in establishing your practice to have as few variables as possible — knowing your own space for writing helps keep distraction or barriers at bay. Remember, you’re trying to establish a practice, a new habit; give yourself all that you need to succeed.

Tools

I don’t chide anyone their whims. Every writer comes to the page differently. Some write directly into their computers, others write longhand. My own choice, over many years, is to write longhand in a journal and as material accumulates I then begin to translate this material in a digital form. For some projects I add a step between paper and computer by typing up material on a manual typewriter. Choose was works for you. People will give you plenty of advice here, but ultimately it’s all about you and you’ll figure it out for yourself. Once you do you’ll need no one’s advice on what to do to get your work down.

Feedback

At a point in time, again a decision that is solely yours, seek out some readers; they can even be fellow writers. Let others read your work and provide you with some feedback of what you have produced. In draft form the idea is simply to understand how others will come to perceive what you were intending. Writing for yourself alone is not to be devalued, but for now it’s best that in beginning your practice you share the fruits of your labor. This feedback helps you continue to sit down and attempt to write given either nebulous or specific criticism; more on levels of criticisms in a future blog post.

Take Away

1 Decide to write
2 Write as much as you can
3 Read
4 Find a time
5 Find a space
6 Choose your tools
7 Get feedback

2013-01-30 07.27.16As you can see there is a lot of room here for personal choices to be made because remember for every different kind of book out there, there’s a different kind of writer who penned it. Every one of them — well, most — think they’re the prettiest flower of all.

  • Here’s one thing to do right now. Sit down for ten minutes and write without stopping. Ten minutes. Write whatever comes to mind. Simply write. Be a writer. Nothing fancy-smancy. No one ever has to read what you wrote. You can burn the results of ten minutes of writing in a small sacrificial bonfire in your backyard — should you choose to do so!

This is all about choice. Yours.

Being a writer means being the writer you are meant to be, not someone else’s idea of what a writer is

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