Writing is one of those things that everybody says they want to do, but not everybody gets around to doing. How many people have you heard say ‘I’d love to write a novel someday’? You might be one of them yourself. The intention to do it is always there, but the practicalities of sitting down and putting together a body of work, editing it and seeking to get it published are always firmly on the back burner.
The problem with ‘someday’ is that it never really comes. People envisage that, at some point in their lives, everything will settle down and they’ll somehow be blessed with several weeks with no distractions, no obligations, and no other commitments apart from to sit in a study and write their masterpiece. During these weeks, centuries of literary inspiration will filter through their windows and seep into their veins, nourishing them with the wit of Oscar Wilde, the observation of Charles Dickens and the plot development of Agatha Christie as, quill in hand, they majestically pen the book that will change the world as we know it.
But this won’t happen, will it? It’s a romantic vision. Unless you win the Lottery and shut yourself away from society for weeks, you’re never going to find yourself with this kid of luxury. Work, family and all-round life will always make that ‘someday’ into ‘no day’.
So, don’t write ‘someday’, write today. In fact, write every day! It’s an excellent habit to get into, and November 15th is the perfect date to kick off your newfound, disciplined approach to being an accomplished and productive writer.
For a start, today is I Love to Write Day. Started in 2002 by American writer John Riddle, it encourages people from all ages, nations and backgrounds to simply head to their keyboard, pick up their tablet, or even reach for a good old-fashioned pen, and write something. The idea is that you might surprise yourself by how good it is, or it could give you some ideas to develop into an accomplished piece.
November is an excellent month to start writing too, because we don’t have the disruption of December, the social commitments of the summer months or the resolutions and priorities we set ourselves at the start of the year. November is probably the closest we get to an ideal month for writing, which explains why it has been designated National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.
The premise of NaNoWriMo is to more or less combat what I’ve been talking about – the lethargic attitude displayed by many would-be writers that prevents them getting anything done. NaNoWriMo gives you a task and a deadline – write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. It’s a tall order, but if you break it down to 1,666 words a day, it sounds a lot more manageable. Maybe you can double this at weekends, in which case 1,000 words per weekday will do.
A deadline always helps, and procrastination is not necessarily caused by laziness, but sometimes also perfectionism. We’re often so keen to create something brilliant, that we put off doing it at all. NaNoWriMo participants often urge each other to ditch their ‘inner editor’ when writing. Don’t worry too much about typos, repetition or general plot weaknesses until you’re finished, then you can review the piece as a whole, with a fresh pair of eyes. By going back and fiddling with every sentence, you may well just be stifling your productivity.
Once we deal with the ‘I don’t have time’ argument, we then come to another often cited obstacle – ‘writer’s block’. This is a fairly pathetic whinge really, but even professional writers will use it as an excuse for not doing any work. In what other professions would you get this kind of carry-on? Do you hear of plumber’s apathy? Solicitor’s sense of disillusionment? Footballer’s ennui?
Of course, there are always days when inspiration runs dry, but pouting doesn’t help and you might be surprised at what you can eke out if you discipline yourself. Think of the writing brain as a muscle that needs to be exercised frequently. If you lift weights every day for a week, but then don’t bother for months, those weights will seem much harder to lift when you eventually come back to them. It’s the same with writing; the more often you write, the stronger your writing brain becomes and, ultimately, the fewer days of ‘writer’s block’ you will suffer.
Many might argue that you can’t possibly produce 50,000 words of any quality if you’re only giving yourself a month to do it, but the point is that it’s an achievement in itself, and a framework for better things. Besides, its quality might surprise you, and many writers have been known to prefer to do their work quickly.
Possibly my favourite author, the late Iain Banks, wrote his 2002 novel ‘Dead Air‘ in just six weeks. Meanwhile, gritty German-American writer Charles Bukowski managed to fit a prolific body of work around a succession of awful jobs, drunkenness and arrests, and it makes for gripping reading, showing that you don’t have to be from a certain background or have an abundance of time on your hands to produce something outstanding.
So, as obvious as it may seem, the first step to being a writer is to write something. Give yourself material to work with. By getting the building blocks of the piece together, you can then spend as long as you want editing it and making it just how you want. Then, the excitement of publishing it can follow.
Don’t forget, though, that good writers also need to be good readers, and some tips from the experts can really stand you in good stead. If you’re looking for some inspiration on the world of freelance writing and self-publishing, we have two excellent online courses that you can complete at your own pace. Our ‘Freelance Writing for Businesses’ and ‘How to Self Publish an eBook’ courses are usually priced at £295 and £245 respectively, but you can download them today with some great discounts.
The ‘Freelance Writing for Businesses’ course can be downloaded today for just £29 when you enter discount code WRITER in the checkout.
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We hope you found this useful and that it has inspired you to put pen to paper, or finger to touchscreen.
Now, chop chop! I want to see 1,666 words by the end of the day!