Anyone who’s ever written anything intended for publication, has probably imagined how it’ll be when they become a famous writer – I know I certainly have. But as most of us know, it’s easier to dream it than to do it.
Here’s a few of the methods I’ve used to avoid being famous:
- Await the Muse
Lots of famous artists and writers have spoken about ‘the Muse’ as if it is some magical being who, from time to time, will alight from on high to impart the gift of inspiration, allowing the mere mortal to spout forth their creative endeavours. And of course, the ancient Greeks believed this sort of thing did actually happen, that inspiration was a gift from the Gods.
Okay, but while there may be those who buy into some version of this romantic dream (that inspiration will turn up eventually and it’s just a case of hanging around til it gets here), it’s pretty clear that any writer worth their proverbial salt will just sit down and start writing. Cos that’s, like, how you write.
Moral: Don’t wait for inspiration – be the inspiration.
- Get a How-to Book
Many successful writers (and many unsuccessful ones) have cashed in on the old I-can-teach-you-how-to-write bandwagon. I’ve read a lot of these tomes over the years (mostly when I was still churning out self-indulgent poetry), and while some were useful, most were little more than a list of tedious writing exercises.
I’ve met enough wannabe writers to know that some of us just need a bit of a push, while others will never make that leap. The hard truth is, if we don’t already have at least a smidgen of talent and enthusiasm, it’s probably a waste of time.
Even the likes of Stephen King has contributed to the vast library of inspirational literature with his book ‘On Writing’ (one of the good ones). Although to be fair, he does point out that he doesn’t think writers can be made, but rather that we all have most of the skills necessary to be able to write well, so long as we work at it and keep working at it.
Moral: We can all learn from the masters, but we mainly learn from doing it ourselves.
- Keep at it – Even When it’s Crap
So you started writing the Great Gothic Novel (or whatever) and it’s not going to plan. But writing is hard, so it’s reasonable you should have to spend hours on end squeezing out every single word like it’s a darn kidney stone, playing the ‘troubled’ writer, the martyr, right?
The first stage play I embarked on took me twelve years to write. Admittedly, I started it when I was a mere teenager, but I came to believe that until I’d finished it I wouldn’t be able to write anything new. Of course, I was wrong and I should have just given up and written something else, but at the time, it felt like a bit of an albatross around my literary neck.
Moral: Just because you started it, doesn’t mean you have to finish it.
- Leave it Alone
So you’ve written you novel and it’s great, you really like it, there’s nothing else you could do to improve it. Well, except for a few grammatical errors, one or two typos and that chapter that kinda goes off at a tangent and doesn’t really work in the context of the book, but still.
Writers are called writers because that’s what they do. I know I’m not alone in saying I don’t think any piece of writing is ever really finished. There are always things that can be improved upon. Whenever I look at stuff I wrote years ago, the errors loom large and I wonder how I didn’t spot them in the first place. And then I think – yeah, that’s because I didn’t look hard enough.
Moral: Writing is re-writing. Don’t settle for average. Be the best.