Writers are horrible people. Think about it. We create characters, we love them and then we do the most horrible things to them all in the name of tension and conflict. Weird, right?
But that doesn’t compare to how we treat ourselves. I see it week in and week out in class – how we beat ourselves up. When someone writes a beautiful piece, there is always this choir of voices saying, “I could never write that” or “I’ll never be that good”.
And yes, they are right. You will never be able to write ‘that’ exactly as the other person did, because you are a different kind of writer. That is what makes us unique. That is what allows us to write our own stories.
10 Remedies For Writers
Writing is hard enough without bashing ourselves over the head about it. This is what I tell my students (and myself) when the going gets tough:
- Stop comparing your work: Don’t compare your first draft to a best-selling author’s seventh prize winning novel. It too was once a sucky first draft and has subsequently been through numerous rewrites, editor suggestions and beta-readers. Not fair to compare.
- Every writer is unique: We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Figure out what they are; work on your weaknesses and celebrate your strengths. If you struggle with dialogue, practise writing it. Study good dialogue, complete dialogue prompts, and read up about dialogue. You get the idea.
- Trust the timing: Malcolm Gladwell says you need 10 000 hours before you are good at anything. We all start at different times. Some writers are just starting out, others have 3 000 hours under their belt already. Others are accomplished, but they still have to fight their demons. Keep practising; you’ll be too busy to listen to critics.
- Set realistic goals: Some writers can write 6 000 words a day, others are happy if they manage 500. Some write full time, others squeeze in pages between meetings and kids. Some writers write three times a week in big blocks, others write for twenty minutes every day. It is up to you to find what works for you.
- Be kind to yourself: Writers are also very ambitious. Often I teach first time authors who have big ideas for books. Multiple plotlines, hundreds of characters and it’s great, but it might be bit ambitious for your current skill set. You might want to try something simpler first. Stephen King said he had the idea for Under The Dome early on in his career, but he realised he wasn’t ready. He saved the idea until he could do it justice.
- Take care of yourself: Writing is both fulfilling and draining. You need good people around you, people who look after you. Not people who drain you. Try surrounding yourself with positive people. Misery loves company.
- Fire your inner critic: One of the first exercises we do at Writers Write is to write a letter to our Internal Critic. We fire the poor soul and thank them for his or her service. A liberating experience.
- Create a creative environment: If you have an office that is great. Make it a space where you can work and have fun. If you don’t have space for an office, try using the corner of a room or converting a cupboard. The internet is full of ideas for adapting small places.
- Take time out to nurture your creativity: Go for a walk, watch a new movie, and build a sandcastle. Do something you enjoy, other than writing.
- Mostly be kind to your writing self: There are enough critics out there. Be your own champion for a change.
by Mia Botha
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