It is Independence Day here in the U.S., and the How To Write Shop thinks that’s the perfect time to think about exercising a little independence for writers too.
So, Writers, let’s declare independence from:
-your dreams. Wait a minute! Dreams are good. Dreams keep us going! But dreams can also, unfortunately, take away your ability to think logically. And, while writing is a right-brain activity, publishing is a business. If a writer has been dreaming of seeing his book on a shelf for decades, or telling her friends “I have an agent.” walking away from a deal/contract that isn’t the best long term move for his/her career can be hard. In fact, sometimes writers don’t even consider it. But that contract–whether an agency agreement or a publishing contract IS a contract–legally binding and carrying with it repercussions that can stay with you potentially the rest of your life, even past your life.
– life’s distractions. This be tough to achieve, especially in this fast-paced world where multi-tasking is no longer a skill but a way of life. Plan a week, weekend, or day where you pack up your muse and the two of you take some time off for a writing getaway. In addition to giving yourself time to think and focus on your writing, a change of workplace can be a huge help when you find yourself stuck my the mire of your everyday hectic life.
-your internal critic—that voice that whispers in the night that your writing isn’t good enough, that you should be doing something more important with your time, or you are wasting your time by writing something no one will ever need. Your internal critic gets mean and goes for your writing jugular. She will chase away the muse every time she gets a chance. And beware! She can also be a sneaky little critic. If an overt assault doesn’t work on you, she comes by stealth. The internal critic is a tough one to silence, especially when she arrives cloaked as “oh, first I’ll put in a load of laundry” or “I need to answer e-mails before I start writing.” Recognize her many faces and declare your independence from her and don’t let her in. How? Recognize her for what she is—powerless without your permission allowing her to get in the way. Set a timer, plug your ears to your internal critic and write for a predetermined length of time. I find 30 minutes a good daily goal. So when it comes to your internal critic, don’t listen. Just write!
– fear of the blank page. Independence here begins by dropping the worry over writing something good enough for someone else to read. Tell yourself no one else will ever have to read it, and write without the restriction of trying to write something good. When you go back the next day and read what you’ve written, it won’t be as bad as you think. In fact, it will probably be good (with brilliance waiting to be uncovered by a little revision). Brilliant writing begins by simply writing, nothing more than words on a page. So go ahead. Free yourself from worrying about quality or if someone is going to read your words and just write. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the pages fill, and the fear of the blank page will disappear with each page of not-bad writing you produce.
-the need to be “real.” This is a tough one. For longer than most of us have been alive, being a “real” writer meant being published in PRINT by a PUBLISHER, but times they are a changing. Chances are very good that in the next few years even authors who do go with a Big Six publisher will not be published in print, or if they are it will be print on demand and their book will not be sitting on the shelf at the local bookstore. There may not be a local bookstore. So, the time is now to get over these old definitions. If you write and people read and enjoy your work, you are real! Embrace it.
I’ll add declare your independence from doing the same old thing. Whether you’re sticking to one genre or reusing familiar, comfy routines, repetition leads to complacency, which is the fast track to stale and lifeless writing. Especially declare your independence from the things you love to do *that don’t work*. (Remember that definition of insanity?) Of all the writing instructors I’ve had over the years, many have called writing challenging, strenuous, even glorious and occasionally like flying. But I can’t recall a single one ever saying writing should be “comfortable.”