Ten Things To Know Before You Become A Writer

A new acquaintance of mine was intrigued by why I wouldn’t just lay back and enjoy my retirement. “Shouldn’t you be going on a cruise, taking in Broadway plays, or some such leisurely activities?” I must admit that sometimes, when I’m up early to write before anyone else in my house is awake, vacations or just hanging out with some of the Red Hat Ladies does sound like a good idea. But my characters depend on me to give them life and a purpose. So, I grab a second cup of coffee and get on with it. Her followup question, however, is the real reason for my post today. What she asked was this: “What do you have to know to be a writer?” Where do I begin? Figuring she was not so much interested in specifics as she is in just making conversation at a barbecue, this is how I answered:

  1. First of all, you need a desire to write—to tell a story that’s been on your heart and mind for way too long. You need an overwhelming desire to get it down on paper.
  2. You need the desire to communicate. It is more than just writing, per se. It is thinking about the reader. Needing to connect with him/her on some deeper level. It’s that emotional connection that we both crave.
  3. You need to be fairly good in your use of spelling and grammar. (I say “fairly” because of there are so many online helps, such as Spell Check, that make that part of writing easy).
  4. But even those online helps are no substitute for a thorough knowledge of sentence structure and a myriad of other writing skills that go along with that. However, writing skills can be learned. I’m learning every day.
  5. You must be a self-starter, disciplined and persevering. Someone who truly does believe that the only way out of the tangled writing jungle is through writing, writing, and more writing.
  6. When your story calls, you must answer. Whether it is 3 a.m. or midnight, when an idea surfaces, you need to be there to develop it 24/7. This may require you to function, occasionally, on a minimal amount of sleep.
  7. You need to be able to delay immediate gratification for months—even years, sometimes. Writing and publishing take a long, long time. It may take you so long to get that book to market and receive those cherished letters from excited readers that you’ve even forgotten the names of some of your characters!
  8. My back and shoulders are aching today, so I must also remind you that you must be able to sit for long periods of time in front of a computer. Get up every hour and move around for a few minutes to avoid the chiropractic office becoming your home away from home.
  9. This contradicts #6 (above) but you do need sleep. You need to be sharp when you write or you’ll make mistakes. These will eat up precious time in editing and rewriting.
  10. The biggest thing you need to be a writer, though, I saved for the end. You need to be CREATIVE. You can know how to write perfect sentences, free from spelling and grammatical errors, but if you lack creativity, your book won’t be a satisfying read for anyone.

I was going to continue by talking about characters, plot, and setting. However, as I looked into her glazed eyes I could see that I had lost her at about #2. Her sights were now set on the dessert table… Brenda

Write or Rewrite?

Here’s what I think. Plain and simple. It’s a LOT more fun to write than to rewrite. In the case of writing, it’s the creative surge within—and as it flows out—onto the paper that makes it so enjoyable.

One moment the page is blank. Within a few minutes, the page is half-filled.

One moment, it is a small spark in the brain. The next, it is a living, breathing, growing organism.

A thought begets another thought. And that thought multiplies into a grouping of thoughts that are just begging to be a story. And that story is NOT GOING TO WAIT!

The ideas are coming so fast that there’s no time to check for grammar, spelling, or errors of any kind. They spill out and if they aren’t acknowledged right away, they fade, sneak, or even run away. It’s hard to recoup them. Often, it’s not possible.

So, like many of you, I have carry a pad of paper in my purse and a notebook in my car. If an idea comes into my head, I pull over and scribble it down. If I’m in a restaurant, a napkin may have to suffice. In the doctor’s office, I once wrote down an idea on the paper liner from the exam table. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

So what happens when you are in the middle of writing and someone calls you to say, partake of luscious ribs from the grill?

That’s what just happened to me. Seriously. In the middle of writing this blog, my husband announced that the ribs were ready a good hour earlier than I had expected.

Now, I couldn’t disappoint the chef (or my stomach) so I closed down my writing program and graced my husband with my presence at the table. The ribs were great and I wasn’t sorry I let them interrupt my writing, but now I am back in front of the computer and I’m stalling…

Why? Because I’ve lost my momentum, my train of thought. I’ve forgotten where I was headed with all of this. Things aren’t quite gelling the way I had hoped. Scratch that. The way I had planned.

So, what should I do? Sit here and wait for inspiration? Pray for instant recall?

I’m gonna give this what I call the “Fifteen Minute Rule.”  This means that if, within the space of fifteen minutes, nothing earth shaking or mind blowing has taken place, I’m shutting it down. That’s right. I’m powering off.

Why? Because it is much more fun to write. Not so much fun to rewrite. (Editing, well that’s just a necessary evil. But that’s not what I’m writing about.) It’s not as exciting when you’ve lost that edge, that quirky way of expressing something ordinary in a new and different way that makes us all sit up and take notice and say: “Wow! That’s sure a new twist” or “Hum, I never thought about it that way before.”

So, go ahead and have a plate of delicious ribs, if you want to. But, as for me, I think I’ll pass—next time.

Are You Sure We Need to Write Every Day?

You may have heard that, as writers, we need to write every day—no matter what. I would agree with that, but I (who am not an expert by any means) would say that it really doesn’t matter what we write, as long as we stay in the habit of writing.

We may need to catch up on letter writing, blogging, answering emails, writing Thank You notes, and so on. Let’s not forget the occasional magazine article, Letter to the Editor, or skit for a club or church group.  These take time, of course, and use writing skills, too. So, they may be just as valuable in developing our writing abilities as in our writing that is devoted strictly to our “books.”

The point is, each of us hone our writing skills in different ways. The important thing is that we don’t get lazy and forget what we’re about. Writing is just like any other habit. If it isn’t cultivated, it dies on the vine.

I heard the saying, years ago, that the only way out of the forest is through (the trees). And, it follows that the only way to get a book written is to write!

So, let’s say you’re caught up on all the other kinds of writing in your life. It’s 2:00 in the afternoon. What should you do? Take a walk? Maybe. Eat a piece of left over birthday cake? If it’s chocolate. Call or text a friend and make plans for the weekend? Why not? But, now it’s 3:15. Should you take a nap?

May I suggest that you sit down in front of the computer and read the last few lines you wrote, yesterday? Then, write until exhaustion sets in.

When you have given it your all and you have no more to give, go ahead and go to bed, early. After all, you didn’t take that nap…

Brenda

 

Doing What I Love Best

“Write, write, write. It seems like that’s all you do, anymore. You should let yourself have a little fun, now and then!”  I’ve heard these words many times over the past few years. If you’re a committed writer, I’m sure you have, too.

Yes, it IS hard work—and yes, it CAN feel like solitary confinement, at times, but it really IS what I want to be doing. It IS fun!

I think of things I could be doing, instead of writing: cleaning house, exercising, paying bills, doing laundry, grocery shopping, pulling weeds… Okay, okay, so I have deliberately tried to create a pretty non-appealing list.

To be fair, I’ll list only things I enjoy. Here goes: reading, window shopping, people watching, decorating, singing (don’t worry, I won’t inflict my voice upon any of you), eating out, and writing. Oops, how did writing get on this list?

Well, I told you I like writing! Really, I do! It’s the act of digging deeper into myself, asking more and more of myself, learning more about myself while creating characters that are exciting, whimsical, hilarious, endearing, and even scary at times. It is the telling of their stories—their hopes, disappointments, dreams, accomplishments— that is so compelling.

As I ready myself for writing each day (cup of coffee, comfy slippers, overhead fan on “low”, snack waiting in the fridge) I hear the voices of my characters call to me. I see their faces and feel their impatience. They are anxious for their stories to be told.

So, I set aside my laundry until later, allow the weeds to grow just a little taller, put something on the counter to defrost for dinner, and hope there is time at the end of the day for a quick walk around the block. I warm my cup of coffee in the microwave and head for my office.

I click on the overhead fan, rest my fingers on the keyboard, and close my eyes. A few minutes later, I pause, satisfied that I’ve made the right choice for my day.

Then, I start in again, doing what I love best.

Brenda

Please visit my other blogs at spiritualsnippets.com and 5scribesandtheirstories.com

Personal Writing Motto

Recently, I’ve read quite a few articles on when, and how often, to write. Authors are giving advice which varies on # of words to write per day, # of days to write per week, and “free”/ “break” days from writing. They give opinions on where to sit while writing, how often to get up and take a walk, optimal lighting, inspiring background music, even which fabrics are the most comfortable.

Nike says “Just Do It”. IMAX offers: “Think Big”. Sony uses the slogan: “Make Believe.” Energizer’s is: “Keeps going and going and going.” Kodak: “Share moments. Share Life.” ; Yellow Pages: “Let your fingers do the walking;” Taco Bell: “Think Outside the Bun;” Pizza Hut: “Make it great;” fitspholic.tumblr.com states: “Turn Intentions to Actions.”

So what advice could I possibly have to offer? I’m glad you asked. This is my personal writing motto: always write what you will be proud to reread some 20+ years from now. Write the truth, without prejudice or malice; write from the heart; write words that honor God.

Keep plugging along. Don’t give up. Push forward. See it through. Move ahead.

Don’t click on “publish” until you are sure: it’s spelled right, it looks right, it sounds right. And when mistakes come (as they inevitably will), extend yourself the grace to forgive your own humanness and imperfections.

Then, get yourself back to the keyboard. It’s a brand new day. See it from a fresh perspective. Write from your soul. Say it with heart.

Brenda