I’m not qualified to give writing advice, but I want to do it anyway. Thus, I have developed a series based on writing. Before we actually get into the first post, we need to establish some ground rules.
- I’m not a paid writer. I write daily in a number of mediums, but none of them actually pay me. So, all advice comes from an amateur.
- Writing advice is generally bullshit. Most writers write about writing. Nothing is ever going to be a cure all.
- The only actual writing advice you need is from Stephen King. “Read a lot and write a lot.” That’s it, folks. You can shut off the lights and go home. The only thing I would add is to try to publish a lot.
Now that the rules are set in stone, let’s boogie.
Writing fucking sucks. It’s not social or pretty or active or easy. No one pays writers for anything ever. You are going to lose time with your family, friends, and pets to sit in front of a computer or notebook writing, mostly, useless bullshit. Most of the time, you are going to question your skill, confidence, life-choices, motivation, intelligence, and ability. Sometimes you are going to give up and you’re probably going to kick yourself over it for days, weeks, months, or years.
Hold on. Not done.
Even if you manage to publish something (fiction, essay, review) the chances that anyone will actually read it is minuscule at best. There are millions of people who want to write and find ways to do that writing. Anything that anyone produces in immediately lost in an overcrowded stream of continuous content. You might as well be a grain of sand on the beach.
You may ask: Ethan, why would you say all this in a post about writing? Why can’t you be supportive of art?
Answer: The entire fucking world is a negative place and every writer will meet hundreds of rejections before they occasionally break through into a few markets. If you wanted a world that was going to hand you roses and popcorn for finishing a story you got off at the wrong stop, man. Get back on and ride till it ends, because no one is going to love you here.
Other Answer: The entire world is not supportive of art or artistic expression. NO ONE CARES ABOUT ARTISTS. It’s a fundamental truth. People like to look at art or read stories, but not one person has ever cared about the journey toward creating art. No one pays artists. We live in a capitalist society, Let’s do the math…. Money is allocated to the things we care about, artists get no money, and our answer is….
So why do it, you ask. Because it’s better than not doing it.
I’m hard on you, because it took me nine years to realize that writing is anti-glamour. It’s dirty and isolating and painful and self-conscious and angry and stuck and mean. I used to think I was entitled to publication because I finished a story or poem or article. Not true. Not true at all. Writing is a process of killing your ego and allowing yourself to see beyond the need for recognition or money or validation. You need to learn to see your writing as an essential part of who you are as a person.
Example: I write often. I try to do 2-3 blog posts a week during my lunch breaks. I also try to write at least 500 words a night on most weekdays. The projects vary. I’m currently chipping away at a novel, but I take breaks to try and start/finish short stories. When I think I have a cool concept or idea for a review or essay, I pitch ideas to blogs and websites. On weekends, I give myself more than 500 words as a goal. When I’m not writing, I am editing finished work and trying to find a place to publish those pieces.
When you accept that writing is part of who you are you just make time for it. I’m a workaholic, but I think I am a healthy workaholic. I try my best to leave my day job at the office. That part of my life already gets 8 hours of my day. Writing (and editing and searching for publishers) gets maybe 2-3 hours per day. Sometimes more on good/lucky days.
I think we, sometimes, want writing to be a process of inspiration and genius. It’s not. It’s a lot of hard work and long days. With my schedule, I am averaging a 10 to 12 hour workday. I’m not counting the reading that I do, which is for learning and development as much as it is for entertainment. Oh, did I mention? I don’t get paid for that extra work. At some point, you need to eat, socialize, watch TV, and pay attention to the things/people in your life that matter. It’s not easy.
I guess I should give advice. Read Charles Bukowski’s “so you want to be a writer?” It’s close to the truth, if a bit overblown. More importantly, assess what is actually important to you in your life. For me, I need to write to feel whole. I lose a part of myself when I don’t have the opportunity to produce content. It took near a decade to figure that out. Maybe you’ll find out sooner…