March 2, 2014

Writing Tip: Just Do It

The more you write the better you get. This is not big news. It's not the next Big Thing. It's just truth. Writing
is not about the right inspiration or whether you write first thing in the morning or late at night; it's not about if you write longhand or on your computer; it's not about what genre you's just about writing. The plain, simple truth is the more you write the better you get. And it doesn't matter if you're writing fiction or in your journal or a magazine article or an email. Pay attention to your writing and write the best you can.
Charles Finch, author of The Last Enchantments and numerous other novels, says, "Writing is like a forehand or driving a car or playing guitar.  Practice makes you better." 
There is nothing more true than that.
And here's the best advice I ever got, from my former writing coach Jerry Cleaver:
"The difference between a writer and a published author is that the author didn't quit."
So, keep writing.

Check out the truth in his article from Writers Digest: 
This week I’m publishing a new novel, The Last Enchantments, about an American abroad at Oxford (kind of a Brideshead Revisited remix).  It will be the eighth book of mine released by a big New York publishing house, but I think it was only somewhere around the fifth or sixth that I stopped feeling like an impostor.  There’s no magical change you feel when your first book finally sells – the same doubts are still there, and definitely the same feeling that you’re a kind of crazy charlatan, trying to trade words out of your brain for money.

But for all that that’s true, the more writers I meet, the more I notice that there are some crucial differences between the professional ones and the ones who want to be professional.  I hope that doesn’t sound condescending – every professional writer used to be an amateur writer, after all, and often the distinctions I’m talking about don’t have anything to do with talent as much as with attitude.  These are the five that I’ve noticed.

When beginning writers approach me, they often want to know where I get my ideas (Pottery Barn, I tell them) or my inspiration.  By contrast, I think published novelists understand that you can’t really get help with inspiration.  No five-minute conversation at a signing is going to make it easy to write a great book.  It has to come from within. 
But you can talk about process.  That’s why, when I talk with other published writers, it’s often not about high-flown ideas on writing but about the mundane, workaday tools we use to do our job.  What pencils do you use?  What reference books are at hand while you work?  Coffee or food or nothing?  Music, no music? 

There’s so much you can’t control about writing that it’s crucial to control what you can.  The less time you spend thinking about how you write, the more time you spend thinking about what you’re writing.

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