Find the Courage to Write

It’s not easy to put your thoughts down on paper in the hope that someone will want to read them.

The world is flush with words already. There are newspapers, magazines and books published every day. A cursory scan of the millions of personal blogs online reveals that everyone has the same hope as you…

That their thoughts and experiences and opinions are worthy of an audience.

What do YOU have to say that’s any different or better than what’s already being published?

Thoughts like those are what kept me silenced for a decade of my writing life. Don’t let them silence you.

Tip #1: Believe You Have Something Worth Saying

I had things I wanted to say, but I didn’t have the skill to communicate them in a compelling, clear, and commercial way.

So of course no one wanted to read what I wrote: it sounded more like a personal diary than a solid work of art.

People will read ANYTHING, but they won’t read self-indulgent writing.

They don’t want you preaching at them from your academic high horse or dazzling them with literary references.

They just want you to be honest, because, when you’re honest, you help them see themselves more clearly.  They’re less interested in you than in how your writing relates to their lives.

One of the great things I learned in my job as a self-help writer is that most people, when they’re interested in a topic, won’t just buy one book. They’ll buy book after book, even if each new book repeats the same old thing.

They don’t care if your book repeats something they learned before; they’ll see the idea in a new light, because you’ve written about it in your own unique way.

Sometimes, we have to learn the same thing over and over and over again from different people until we finally get it.

So don’t be ashamed about what you want to write about. You can write about the most mundane things, and people will love spending time with you if they like your “voice.” Never underestimate the value of your own unique perspective on life.

Tip #2: Don’t Put Excuses in Your Way

If you’re like most struggling writers, there’s always something else you have to do before you’ll make it and get that book published.

Maybe you need to get published in some literary magazines first. Maybe you think you need an M.A. Maybe you’re lacking in certain skills and need to improve them before your work is publishable.

Let’s call them for what they are: excuses.

Hey, I’m well versed in excuses. All of the excuses mentioned above were mine at one point or another.

But ultimately I could admit the truth to myself: I was afraid.

I was afraid of putting my book out there. I was already convinced no one would accept it. I thought it was no good.

I needed to be honest with myself and admit that my self-confidence was the only thing standing between me and a publishing contract.

Tip #3: Don’t Solicit Too Much Advice

That may be an ironic comment, given that this is a writing blog.

But if you listen to people around you, you’ll get all the proof you need that you can’t make a living writing.

Even my writing professors on my master’s course told us that very few people ever make a living writing, and they avoided encouraging us to believe that we could be one of them.

One well-meaning mentor after another suggested my writing was more of a “personal indulgence” than a commercial goldmine.

Thanks to their “help,” I became more entrenched in my belief that my writing was for myself and to share with those I cared about, and that I would have to make a living doing something else.

Look, I know the statistics about how many people become full-time writers. But you can’t live your life by statistics.

If you’re realistic about your chances, you won’t try at all.

And that’s ridiculous, because those slots on the bestseller lists are there for writers like you to fill.

Get on with your writing, and don’t listen to others unless they have something positive to tell you.

Tip #4: Spend as Much Time Editing as You Do Writing

I’m one of those writers who accumulates hundreds of pages of material but doesn’t bother finishing them.

That’s because editing feels like WORK.

If there’s no chance that what I’m writing is going to be read, there’s no reason to edit it, right?

But if you want to be published, all the raw material in the world isn’t going to help you do it. You need finished drafts.

And to get to the final draft stage, you’ve got to put in the hard yards editing.

I couldn’t face the task of editing my book once I finished it. So I decided to do it the easy way: I’d pick out chapters that could work as stand-alone stories and polish them up and send them out to literary magazines.

Not only would publication in literary magazines help sell the book someday, but I’d make a little progress on getting the book to that coveted final draft stage.

Did it work? Not exactly. But I still think it was a darn good idea.

Tip #5: Don’t Worry about “Being Good Enough to Publish”

All you need to care about is expressing yourself as honestly and clearly as possible. Let others worry about whether it’s good enough to publish. Your job is to write what you need to write.

The fear of not being good enough dogged me for years.

I wasn’t a very good writer when I graduated from university. Sure, I could pull off an A essay with ease, but my mind was as jumbled as a ball of yarn tangled in a kitten’s paws. I had high aspirations, but what I wrote never seemed to live up to the dream I had in my head.

I sent off stories to a few literary magazines and contests and was turned down without so much as a personal comment scrawled on the rejection letter.

Meanwhile, my parents wanted me to get a “real” job. In fact, my mother told anyone who’d listen that I needed to “get a life.”

It seemed like being a writer would end up as one of those youthful fantasies I’d reminisce about someday, like strumming a guitar and living on air.

My writing became one of my guilty pleasures, akin to scoffing an entire tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in bed under the covers. I still wrote copiously—you can take away the will to publish, but you can’t take away the will to write—and “self-published” my material by sending it out via email to all my friends.

Knowing that a few of my friends were reading what I wrote was all the encouragement I needed to produce dozens and dozens of pages of bad travelogues and self-indulgent philosophy.

What I didn’t know at the time was that all that writing was the training I needed to get myself to the place where I could actually think seriously about getting published.

The more you do something, the better you get.

Even if my early writing was crap, it had served an important purpose. It made me better.

Nike is right. The only solution is just do it.

Category : Writing


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