Note: I’ve been wanting to start a segment like this for awhile: Tips for Successful Writing. Don’t get me wrong. Despite my mother’s confidence, I am not yet an expert in the field of writing. I am, however, an expert in the field of trial and error. These tips are wholly based on my experience of what works and what doesn’t, so feel free to take it with a heaping tablespoon of Kosher salt.
Feel free to contribute your own tips in the comments or to my e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured on Saturday Jane.
Let’s get groovin’, shall we?
Tip #1: Write. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
I realize that this is a tall order. We barely have enough time to brush our damn teeth every day, much less find a spare hour to waffle on in our diaries about the stories we want to tell, but consider! The amateur athlete has to exercise everyday. The chef cooks in their downtime. The musician plays, the artist draws, and even that girl you knew in high school who said she was going to be a fashion designer watches the Style network like, all the time. For some reason, a significant number of people feel that writing is an exception to the rule that you have to practice to get good. Folks think that you are either a good writer, or you’re not, which is horseshit, if you’ll pardon my French. As in every other profession, every other art form, talent counts, but not as much as putting in the hours. So sit down and write something, and I don’t mean occasionally.
There are two options for those who are serious about writing every day. The first is to set aside an hour and do it all in one go. This might mean cutting out some Guitar Hero or spending a little less time watching the 24 hour news networks. Heck, it might mean reformatting your day entirely to squeeze every available moment into one lovely, easily accessible chunk. Once you have that time, consider it utterly sacred. It may not be substituted for that movie on TV or a beer with your buds. Lock yourself in a quiet room. Bring out your laptop or your pad of paper or what have you and WORK without interruption until your hour is up. This is the preferable of the two options, at least to me.
The other option may appeal more to the unlucky souls who actually already have their days crammed full of tasks that are, I don’t know, required for the livelihoods of themselves and their families. For these folks, get a notebook. Something that fits into your purse or your back pocket, and take that sucker EVERYWHERE with you. Take it to work, the mall, the movies, the grocery store, the doctor’s office…take it to the john, if that’s the only time you get five minutes to yourself. Now that you’ve got your notebook…write in it. Anticlimactic step two, I know, but all of those spare moments spent standing and waiting during the day are golden little glimmers of opportunity. That time when you’re waiting for the Starbucks guy with a fauxhawk to finish your mocha you could be writing. Same with the wait at the pharmacy or the ten minutes of your lunch break not spent eating your co-worker’s canned pineapple.
Granted, only writing in these scattered few seconds isn’t ideal, but it’s SOMETHING. It’s like filing one fingernail at a time. Eventually you’ll have a well-manicured hand, even if you feel a little awkward in the interim.
I know it’s hard. I know it interrupts the rest of your life, but this is WAR, my writing friends. Or at least, uh, it’s a VASTLY COMPETITIVE FIELD IN WHICH EVERYBODY HAS A CHANCE, and you’ve got to seize the opportunity to sharpen your weapons. After a year of writing every day, imagine the strength of your pencil, the voracity of your wit!
Go forth, friends, with your copy of Strunk & White held high above your head, your battlecry loud and true:
“MY BOYFRIEND THINKS I’M TALENTEEEEEEEEEEEEED!”