If you want to be a writer you have to show up, sit down, and write. Words may be dictated to you by God as they were for Giacomo Puccini when he wrote the opera Madame Butterfly, but then it’s up to you to do the menial work of getting them down on paper, because you’re just the designated typist. That job involves a lot of hard, laborious, meticulous work that takes dedication and persistence. When it comes right down to it, writing is just a job, and like any other job you have to work at it. Okay, and it’s the only thing that makes you happy.
Make it a habit to read work that matches roughly what you hope to write and publish. Read the kind of books you’d like to write, the poems you’d like to write, the articles you’d like to write for magazines. Make it as important as anything else you schedule in your day, and never allow busyness to crowd out the time you devote to consuming other good works.
Just in case nobody every told you, here is some information worth sharing, remembering, celebrating:
The first modern novel every published, The tale of Genji, was written by a Japanese noble woman named Murasaki Shikibu, early in the 11th century.
The best-selling novelist of all time was Dame Barbara Cartland who, before her death in 2000, published 723 novels.
The record for the fastest selling book of all time belongs to JK Rowling, for the seventh and final book of the Harry Potter series, which sold 11 million copies in 24 hours.
Here’s a little ray of writing sunshine: It’s easy to assume absolutely, finitely, without question that writing everyday leads to a productive writing career.
To be clear, for some people it does.
But contrary to the common advice that writing every day is essential to being a writer, “no particular work schedule is associated with high productivity. Even working on a regular basis yields a mixed pattern of results” (as cited in Kellogg, 1994, p. 194).
Further research is needed to investigate the question of whether the advice to write every day is sound advice or if it is just a fallacious argument that we think is true because so many say it is.
The creative life has to be kept in order on a regular basis. It’s not good enough to go to it for one day, or a few, a couple times a year. Creativity requires the luxury of time, which we must carve out for ourselves—even if it’s only fifteen minutes. Creative people need that luxury of time: time with friends, time with family, time to themselves with no agenda, even time to do their creative work.
We know in our bones what is right and what to do about it. Even if we say this is not so. Even if we will not admit it out loud. Even if the rigors of life distance us from our deeply intuitive lives. Even if, for reasons that seemed like good ones at the time, we have accepted permanent exile from our creativity impulses.
The truth is that creative people who don’t take time to take care of their creative life become very, very cranky. I have heard all the excuses that any creative person might knit up: I can’t right now. I’m not talented. I’m bored. I’m not important. I’m not educated enough. I have no ideas. I don’t know how. I don’t know what. I don’t know when. I don’t know why. I’m too busy. I don’t have time. I don’t have money. I don’t…I don’t…I don’t…
The promise of a creative life is very scary.
But, perhaps you didn’t know that being scared is most often very, very good for a creative person: it shows us what will happen if we allow ourselves to become talented derelicts. And often that’s scary enough to scare us back into creating again.
Don’t spend time wondering how you lost your way. It can be difficult to know exactly where we lost our way, for it is an insidious process, one that doesn’t occur in one day, but rather over a long period of time. We learn early to act on what others say, value and expect. Thus, we walk a long way down the wrong path before realize we did not actually choose this road.
Turn around, find your path. Walk your path.
Take your eyes off the price and put them on the prize. It’s important to write about things that matter to you. Moral intelligence creates authenticity in a writer. Set yourself something in writing that you are willing to reach for and, therefore, take risks for.
“Writing, the creative effort, the use of the imagination, should come first,–at least for some part of every day of your life. It is a wonderful blessing if you will use it. You will become happier, more enlightened, alive, impassioned, lighthearted and generous to everyone else.”
— Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write