Monday, April 12, 2010

Head Space

Most writing courses, online writing sites and books on writing focus on teaching aspiring writers 'how to write'. From the basics of correct punctuation to more complex concepts such as narrative structure. These are important tools of the trade, but in the years since I started writing I've learned that there are other things that are just as important for aspiring writers to learn.

Before you can write, you need to get in the right head space.

Writing is a lot like sports psychology - you can train for the toughest race, but if your head isn't in the right place, you're not going to win.

The first lesson I've had to learn is to treat writing like a profession. One day, a couple of years ago, I made a conscious decision that this wasn't just a hobby any more. I was serious about writing and I began to take it seriously. In my head, I made the switch from being an amateur to being a pro. It didn't matter that I hadn't yet sold a manuscript, I saw myself as a professonal writer. So far, it's working pretty well for me. Since then, I've completed two full length novels and contracted a novella to Wild Rose Press.

The second lesson is to believe in yourself. Multi published writers will tell you that the crows of doubt never stop circling [just listen to Penny Jordan in this interview] but what separates the successful writers from those who never finish a book is that the successful writers don't let the doubts defeat them. Give yourself a pat on the back every now and then. You wrote a whole page, a whole chapter, a whole book ... celebrate your achievements. With each baby step your belief in yourself will grow. Only if you have faith in yourself, will you conquer those crows.

The third lesson is one I still struggle with. Discipline. Writing novels isn't a sporadic thing that you can do for an hour a week, or a week on and two weeks off. You can't wait for the muse to strike. You need to work at it every day and get into a writing routine. At the start of last year's Nanowrimo, I was writing about 800-900 words an hour. At the end of the month I was averaging 1,200 words an hour. I achieved that because I wrote for at least an hour every day. Then I let life intervene and the routine was broken. Right now I'm struggling to write 500 words an hour. My muse has deserted me because I haven't been giving her enough attention.

More recently, I've learned that sometimes life really does take precedence over everything else. We all have moments in our lives where there are other things we need to accomplish. We still need to sleep, to eat, to take care of our loved ones, to be sociable human beings, to earn a living. Don't beat yourself up because you didn't get a chance to write today. Get through the day, live life to the full, and when those other pressing needs have been taken care of, then sit down and start to write, with a clear head.

But in my experience, the most valuable lesson any writer can learn is this: don't ever give up. Take a break if you need it, but don't let it be a permanent one. After all, you have to be in it to win it.

1 comment:

  1. Very true! Every single point resonated with me. Sylvia Plath said that the greatest enemy of creativity is self-doubt. That's my greatest struggle as a writer.