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Becoming A Writer

 

Becoming A Writer

The biggest difference between published writers and wannabe writers is that published writers write, and wannabe writers only dream about writing. If you want to be a writer, you have to commit to writing. It’s that simple. You don’t need a degree. You don’t need to be hired to write. You don’t need to have a career in writing. You don’t need anyone to say, “You have met the requirements, you are now a writer.” You don’t even have to be any good. You just need to write—that is what makes you a writer.

“But what will make me a good writer?” you ask. The answer is the same. If you want to be a good writer, you have to write and write and write and … There is no secret formula, there is no fairy dust, there is no magic potion. Only two things make you a good writer: being born with the talent to be a great writer, or experience. Experience comes in writing just like in any other physical or intellectual endeavor. You do it, you make mistakes, you learn from your mistakes and correct them, you do it again and again. You grow into becoming a marathon runner or a pole vaulter or a computer programmer—step by step, day by day, just as you grow into becoming a good, or even great, writer.

Creating Your Writing Time and Space

 

It is important to establish an environment that stimulates you to turn on the writing mode sooner. When you step into this arena or create a writing ritual, your brain shifts gears and knows this is your writing time. Some people use music, some nature, some read poetry, or spend time meditating or concentrating on some form of art. Others sit in a favorite chair or use a certain pen or color of paper. The environment you create should feel safe. You want it to open the door to creativity.

What needs to be in that space? What are your writing implements? I like to have at hand The Synonym Finder and my

favorite dictionary. Do you need coffee, tea, a snack? Do you have a way to play music if you need it? Are there images that inspire you, or objects? I have a wonderful reproduction, that my family and friends call “The Flying Aztec.” To them it’s junk, to me it represents something magical. I also have a binder filled with pictures and images that stimulate my imagination.

Your writing space doesn’t have to be elaborate. A big room with a big desk and comfy chair, a view, and an expansive library doesn’t mean you will spend any more time writing than if you had a laptop or notebook and pen at the kitchen table that you have to clear away before meals.

The space you are creating is an important part of your creativity. You must treat it with respect. It should contain whatever elements you need to write and whatever inspires you. However, keep it simple and uncluttered so that you aren’t distracted with the need to clean up. Don’t delude yourself into thinking you need the latest technology. Paper or a notebook and pen work just as well if that’s all you have.

Charting Your Energy Flow

 

A few years back I worked for a company that used circular charts that metered oil-production flow for twenty-four hours over seven days. One day I decided to use one of these meters to chart my own energy flow, which actually gave me some insight into how I use my time and my high and low energy periods during the day. Using this chart is a good way to see whether you are spending the high energy part of your day on the right priorities. Below is a sample chart.

The outer circle is the time of day when you have your highest energy peak. The center dot represents the time when you have your lowest energy level, presumably when you go to sleep. Between the outer and inner circles are your available hours. If your peak energy time is 7:00 a.m., and that’s when you awake, start the outer circle at 7:00 a.m. If your low energy time is at 7:00 a.m., put that time in the inner circle. If your peak energy time is during the middle of the day, start the outer circle at that time. Color in the hours of the day when you have scheduled activities. At a glance you should be able to tell whether you have over scheduled your life and how much time you are losing to unimportant events.

  • What are the hours you have left?
  • Are you using your peak energy hours efficiently?
  • Can you schedule your writing time during your peak hours?
  • What in your schedule can you rearrange?
  • Are you scheduling enough sleep?
  • Are you scheduling time for personal care and for exercise?

 

Days of the week chart

18-hour Time Chart

 

Developing an Internal Compass

 

Through all my years of writing, one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is knowing when my ideas were strong enough and when someone else’s critiques and ideas were helpful or were leading me away from the story I wanted to tell. Sometimes your subconscious writer knows what’s important to the story, but your conscious writer doesn’t have a handle on the words or imagery—yet. If you get rid of that bit of writing before you figure out why it’s there, you may disrupt your story to the point you can’t complete it or that you will never be happy with it.

Never, never get rid of something in your story if your gut tells you it needs to be there. As you come to know your story, you will develop your internal compass, and you will eventually figure out what you are trying to say or show. I have worked with writers whose “bad” writing became some of the best writing in their story, once they figured out its significance and what they wanted to say and show.

In Chapter 2, “Becoming a Writer,” The Writer’s Compass offers more tips for developing your writing life. Click on the “Writer’s Compass” tab above for some of the booksellers where you may purchase the book.

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