I “manned up”, bit the bullet and finally started following my dream to write. It’s been now been three years and quite the journey. Quite the journey I tell you … LOL! It’s been a wild ride for sure. Writing isn’t for sissies, this much I have learned. But I can genuinely say it has definitely been worth it. I have learnt so much and I have made some amazing friends along the way. These are some of the things I’ve learnt over the past three years.
1. Don’t isolate yourself
Writing, by its very nature, is a very solitary undertaking. We tend to lock ourselves away from the world in order to engage our muse and usually I get some of my best writing done when I’m on my own. But there are definitely times that you should be spending time with like minded people, doing what you love and drawing inspiration/advise/wisdom from them and offering whatever you can in return. This is your reward to your stints of solitary confinement.
2. Learn from those more experienced than you
One of the many benefits I have drawn from being part of ROSA (Romance Writers Organisation of South Africa) is that I get to spend time with authors that have been doing this for a lot longer than me. They’ve learnt many of the tricks of the trade and can give some good advise about issues you might experience that they’ve already been through themselves. I have been blessed to meet some really wonderful ladies and they have taught me much. Be open to it. There is so much to learn so why make it harder on yourself than it absolutely has to be.
3. Structure is definitely my friend
I have learnt that writers are divided into two kinds – pantsers and planners. A number of my writing friends are pantsers. They sit themselves down in front of their computers, put fingers to keyboard and off they go. The words pour from them without much thought about where it’s going. Me? Not so much. I think I might have mentioned in a previous post that I have to research everything … to death! I need a roadmap or blue print if I’m to perform at my best, no matter what I’m doing. I have tried once or twice to pants it, so to speak, but it doesn’t work for me. In the end I find that all it does is just cause me more stress than it’s worth. So I have now learned that planning and having a structure with which to move forward works best for me.
4. Working to a firm deadline
Another critical issue for me is working to a firm deadline. I have to set a deadline for myself in order to actually knuckle down and be productive. If I have an open-ended idea of when I might think I could possible want to have a project finished I may as well just walk away before I even start because I know I’ll wind up wasting time faffing around and getting absolutely nowhere. On the flipside of that coin, I find if I give myself even a tentative deadline, for example 5000 words in two weeks then I find myself settling in and working to achieve my self-imposed deadline.
5. What works for me
I find that it’s best to find a strategy that works for you and stick with it. I’m learning that these work for me:
Planning out my project – it helps me to get my thoughts in order about who, what, where, when, why and how
Being flexible with my plan – just because I have a plan doesn’t mean that’s how the characters want it all to play out in the end so I need to be flexible
Working to a firm deadline – a deadline can be shifted if it needs to be but it’s good to have a firm goalpost to work toward
Listening to music while I write – music feeds me soul almost as much as reading and writing so I find great comfort and inspiration listening to music while I write
Having a writing friend hold me accountable – since writing is generally not a team sport, so to speak, it’s easy to just “put off until tomorrow what you should be doing today” so having someone else hold you accountable by checking in periodically helps to keep me motivated and moving towards that deadline
Ultimately though writing should be something you enjoy doing, a labour of love. If it has you all bunched up in stress knots then it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate what you’re doing wrong. I am always my harshest critic and put so much pressure on myself I’ve had to take that important step back to re-evaluate. So I had a good long think about all of it and this is what I learning about myself and this writing journey of mine. This is what I’m learning works best for me.