While there is no one answer to penning the next great novel, there are definitely some similarities in the writing habits of successful authors. No surprise here: Writing takes work. And though it may seem overwhelming to be faced with a blank page and a head full of ideas, a few tried and true practices will help you uncover your true potential.
1) Always Be Prepared
Inspiration can strike anywhere, so make sure you always have a notepad and pen to jot down ideas during the day.
2) Stick to a Routine
If you are experiencing writer’s block, sticking to a routine and focusing on thinking about writing will get the juices flowing. The words don’t magically appear on paper for even the most gifted writers, so you need to put in the time and hard work to achieve results. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to sit with pen to paper just to say you did. Using your “writing time” for reflection and creative thinking is just as important as writing the words themselves. In the words of Henry Miller, “When you can’t create you can work.”
3) Have a Special Writing Zone
Though your imagination can be sparked at any time, it’s important to have a dedicated area to focus on your writing. A cluttered work space leads to a cluttered mind, and having somewhere to process all your ideas is important to getting them down on paper. Take charge of the conditions under which you write. The busy world we live in does not bend to accommodate creative types, and in the words of E.B. White, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”
4) See All Your Ideas Through
If you find yourself writing completely off topic, don’t fret or throw it away! Just because the story isn’t going in the direction you had expected doesn’t mean it has to be abandoned altogether. You may find the new arc far more interesting than what you had originally planned, or at the very least, you can save this new thread for a whole new project.
5) Write What You Know
Just because you admire the writing style of Ernest Hemingway doesn’t mean you need emulate all aspects of his lifestyle. Drinking, bullfighting and African safaris may work for some people but not for everyone, so it is important to find a creative process all your own. If you let the life you actually live inspire your writing, your words will have an honesty nobody else can copy. At the same time, don’t try to please everyone with your writing. If you focus on a generic audience you will truly touch no one.
6) Set Deadlines for Yourself
Even if you don’t have an editor breathing down your neck, having a goal to work toward is important to the creative process. Without a sense of urgency your writing can veer off topic and become irrelevant to what you are truly trying to say. There is a reason why people procrastinate; we tend to work well under pressure.
You may not pen your life’s defining work right away, but there is no time like the present to begin the process. It may take some time to develop your voice and find a routine that works, but a year from now you will be much happier that you started practicing today.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?