You have read them before. You swear you’ll commit to them. And then real life comes butting in or your initial motivation wears off or you realize that the fantasy in your head is not playing out in the physical universe the way you thought it would. This is the no BS guide of how I apply these tried-and-true writing tips.
When I have the discipline for it, of course.
1. Write every day.
Fantasy: You carve out several hours in your busy schedule to devote fully to the craft. You show up at your desk at a specific time, shut out the mundane preoccupations of the outer world and harness the muse to your advantage.
Reality: After working at my energy-draining job for a good 8 hours, washing dishes, cooking myself dinner, paying bills, sending out the hundreds of emails I tend to ignore, take my dog out, I turn on Vanderpump Rules and use the commercial breaks to write a couple of lines here and there. It’s still better than nothing and I continue to have daily contact with my imaginary world.
2. Join a writing group so you can get feedback.
Fantasy: Every other week you and five other talented individuals convene to swap sections of your novels. These are all read thoughtfully and the commentary provided is insightful, groundbreaking and brilliant. Somehow, you manage to have time for this despite the 75 hours you’ve set aside to simply stare at the beach while the perfect sentence comes to you in a flash of inspiration.
Reality: Writing groups are great. It’s an easy way to see what’s exciting about your work. Even better, it’s a great way to have people point out your blind spots and plot holes. Most of the time, though, all the competing voices can be distracting and I sit there wondering if the time reading other people’s novels is best spent writing the one I keep ignoring because I really want to watch Vanderpump Rules. I give you free rein to flake out on a writing group. Bring your first draft, get the goods and then disappear (with an apologetic note cause you have manners). Only come back once you’re on draft number 678 and need to put the finishing touches.
3. Silence your inner editor.
Fantasy: With the grace of Cate Blanchett and the icy stare of Tilda Swinton, you ignore the annoying hater in your head that tells you this is trash. You are so confident in your ability to polish the fine piece of turd in front of you, that your fingers rarely hesitate and you have no reason to flip through your notes. Editing is for Future You to resolve.
Reality: Around page 80 I’ll realize what my novel is really about, what my character’s motivations actually are and that I’ve changed my villain’s name four different times. Awesome. I start over, now with a clearer idea of what shape my little diamond in the rough will take.
4. Read as much as you can.
Fantasy: After writing at your desk for the vast majority of the day and communing with your writing group at night, you spend at least three hours reading the latest and greatest work before falling asleep. In this universe, you need not eat, clean, or go to the bathroom. You live in the abstract.
Reality: I read on the subway, while waiting for my perpetually late friend, at the hair salon, 5 minutes before succumbing to Netflix, when I visit my parents and can finally, FINALLY, pay attention to something else than my daily survival. I read good stuff, and ONLY good stuff, because life is too short to throw it away on 5o Shades of Gray.
5. Embrace solitude.
Fantasy: Well, we’ve already established you’re an ethereal being with little need for human touch or connection. This should be easy.
Reality: I get myself to a public space like a cafe or a bar so I can ogle my fellow man. My social life is dead enough as it is. Plus, why the hell am I doing this if it isn’t to bridge some gap between me and other members of society?