“Writing is learned by imitation. If anyone asked me how I learned to write, I’d say I learned by reading the men and women who were doing the kind of writing I wanted to do and trying to figure out how they did it.”
– William Zinsser, On Writing Well
20 things that a woman writer needs to stop wearing:
1-20: The weight of other people’s expectations and judgments.
Have you ever been held back, by yourself, from writing because of the expectations and judgments of others?
That’s a trick question, because, if you’re a woman, the answer is, “Of course.” It’s so easy to get so wrapped up in trying to be enough for everyone else that you begin to forget about what you need. (Notice I said need, not want.)
Wearing the weight of other people’s expectations and judgments can vary from not seeming like a big deal to feeling immense amounts of pressure to have ________, to do ________.
Start walking down your writing path today – tiptoe if you need to. Chances are it won’t fit perfectly right now and might be a longer journey to get to where you want to go than you would like, but ultimately, if you are doing what you love, you’ll be happier than you are right now.
An oldie, but a goldie, especially for a woman:
“If you want to write, you have to cut through and write. There is no perfect atmosphere, notebook, pen, or desk, so train yourself to be flexible.”
– Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones (p. 101).
Keep writing. Your words matter. My words matter. Life gets in the way – everyday, every freakin’ day! – but we can’t stop, won’t stop writing. Don’t. Stop. Writing.
“Believe me, if anybody has a job and starts at 9, there’s no reason why they can’t get up at 4:30 or five and write for a couple of hours, and give their employers their second-best effort of the day – which is what I did.”
— Mary Oliver
Pick the hours that work best for you to write. Keep a writing schedule and be as disciplined as you can about keeping your writing appointments with yourself, but pick the hours that work best for you.
Learning to work is about learning to write every day, even if it is for a short time. It’s about returning to the work day after day.
There’s such a thing as making a decision to be productive. Being productive in your writing, as opposed to having a sporadic work habit, gives a lot back to the writer. Work begets work, and when it does, it begins to add up.
In her little book Minding the Muse, Priscilla Long says, “You get, piece by piece, a lot more experience. You develop more skill to bring to the next piece. Also each piece is asked to carry less weight in the artist’s lifetime body of work, and this in turn affords an easier, more fluid working process” (p. 7).
When my boys were toddlers, I worked full time, and had to give up the dream of having long stretches of time to write. So, I wrote during 20 minute coffee breaks at work. What I figured out was that if I wanted to write a 1,500 word article and I roughed up 300 words a day, I would have a rough draft written in five days.
This taught me two things about learning to work:
1. Work in short stretches of time. Push out distractions. Try fifteen minutes. Try twenty or thirty minutes. Whatever you have time for, try that.
2. Have a writing goal. My goal was specific and reachable: 300 words. Just a couple of paragraphs.