Struggling aspiring writer? Me too.
When I first started writing, I wanted a lot of things. I wanted to write all day and all night. I wanted people to read my writing, respond to it with their own thoughts, and share it with their friends. Social media was a shiny thing I wanted to be good at to get a great following. Working toward a novel was a marathon I tried to sprint. The validation from my peers, family, friends, exes, professors, was the trophy I wanted. Proving to the world that I was a good writer was all I wanted, no matter what it took.
Let’s take a look at what I did wrong, and what I’m doing now to create my own writing habit.
1. Stop Wanting to be a Writer
Okay, we have to start with this one because it might be the most important. One of the biggest issues we have as aspiring writer’s is that we aspire. Stop that. Just write.
A lot of people think they need some kind of certificate or a set of qualifications to be considered a writer. And sure, you can go to college and study writing like I am, but that isn’t what makes you a writer. You make yourself a writer by actually writing. Stop thinking, and write.
Stop hoping that tomorrow you’ll actually sit down at your computer and knock out those 1,000 words you’ve been meaning to do. You know, those words that are trapped in your brain that you don’t want to let go of, probably out of fear. Those words deserve to be published and read by other people.
For most of my life, I was constantly using the phrase “I want to be a writer” in response to questions about my future. I wasn’t studying writing at college, I wasn’t even trying to get anything published, and I definitely wasn’t sharing my work with my friends. Although I was writing in my spare time, I never thought of myself as a “writer” because I had no real training or validation. That may have been one of the most self sabotaging things I’ve done to myself. For me, it took realizing that writing was more than a hobby of mine to gain the courage to call myself a writer. Now, I have no real exposure, no one knows my name, and I’m still learning, but guess what. I’m a writer.
2. Stop Thinking About Other People
This will set you free.
We are so concerned with our image and personal brand that even when we’re sitting at home alone in our underwear on our fake leather couch in the summer, the skin on our thighs getting ripped apart anytime we try to get off this sweaty death trap, we’re concerned about what somebody else is going to think about the words we spilled on the page. Like, girl. You look like a mess, you haven’t showered, not a single set of eyes in the world could possibly fall on you right now, and you’re worried about what someone else might hypothetically be thinking about that sentence you just typed so you’re going to delete it? I’m so guilty of this, but it doesn’t mean I support it.
Stop worrying if anyone is going to read your work. As a beginner, chances are not a lot of people actually will. And that’s okay, that’s normal. You also need to stop thinking about other people while you’re writing. Stop worrying about your parents reading your writing online, stop thinking about what your childhood friends think about you now, or if your partner is going to like your writing. People won’t like your writing. But other people will.
Your worth is not a numeric value. Once you learn that the number of likes you get on a post only brings you fleeting happiness, you’ll write more, and you’ll write better, because you’ll stop caring and you’ll stop filtering. No one wants a censored version of you, they want the authentic self, which brings us to our next point.
3. Stop Trying to Force a Voice
Being authentic in your writing is extremely important. When you force yourself to write a certain way or about certain topics, chances are you’re not in love with what you’re writing. Trying to emulate your favorite blogger or influencer only makes you a clone. People want originals, and someone is already doing what you’re doing, but better and more authentically.
Being yourself will make you instantly stand out from the crowd, and captivate the exact audience you actually want. Tell your stories, talk about your journey. People will relate to you if you give them something worth reading.
4. Stop Writing to Gain Fame
There is nothing wrong with having hopes of becoming a #1 New York Times Bestselling Author, or writing the next YA series everyone is obsessed with across the country. Believe me, I also want those things. But if that is your only motivation to write, you may want to rethink why you’re here. Do you write to fulfill a creative need? Do you write to help others or make new connections? Are you trying to make a difference somewhere? Maybe you just want to share your journey with the world. All of that is great. But if you’re only in it for the followers and the money, people are going to know and see through it.
Just like trying to be someone else, trying to be famous brings out the unauthentic. Think about high school for a second (I know, it’s only a second though). Remember those kids that wanted so badly to be popular that they completely changed their personality to fit in with the cool cats? Maybe you were one of those kids, seeking a sense of validation from your peers. But were those kids happy? Constantly stretching themselves to fit a mold someone else was choosing for them. And everyone knew it too, so no one appreciated them.
Writing to please is an art form in itself. Obviously you want to create content your readers want to read, but steer clear of going too far to put on a show for your readers.
5. Stop Using Time as an Excuse
Time is a gift from the universe. It’s also fake. But it’s a gift.
Time is a man-made concept that’s meant to dictate our lives, are you going to stand for that? I don’t know about you, but I do not like to be told what to do, and Time likes to give orders. You must be at work at 9am, and stay for 8 hours. You have to sleep at 11, you’re going to family dinner at 6, classes are from 9:30–4:30. We already have a lot of commitments that take up our time. You’re probably trying to find the time to write, right? Well… There’s no such thing as “finding time”. Because Time is fake, you can’t find it. When was the last time you found a unicorn, an accurate Buzzfeed personality test, or a series finale to a show that wasn’t just tying up loose ends into messy knots? You didn’t, because those things don’t exist. If you want those things, you have to make them. You gotta make the time for what you love.
I make time in my schedule to write every morning. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, insists on living by what she calls Morning Pages. You write 3 pages in a journal (yes by hand) every morning, first thing. Before you check your social media, before you answer those emails and texts. On those three pages all you’re going to write is your stream of consciousness for that morning. Write all the thoughts you have until your 3 pages are filled. You’ll be surprised about what comes out of those three pages, and how clear your head will feel. And although you’ll probably never publish your Morning Pages, you just wrote 3 whole pages before your day even began! Look at you!
6. Stop Overreaching on Your Goals
Having obtainable goals in so, so important. Nothing is more discouraging than not achieving a goal or a deadline, and that can really set you back in your motivation. Leave writing 5,000+ words a day to the big dogs. For now, start at something like 1,000 or fewer. For me, it’s 750 words a day. I see that number and think, “I can reach that goal today.” And because my goal is so obtainable, I usually surpass it and write around 2,000 words a day. Don’t sit down and think you’re going to write 10 blog posts or articles or chapters. Start with 1 or 2, and once you’ve finished those, move on to another if you feel good about that.
Not only will you feel a sense of satisfaction and a job well done, but you’ll be more likely to write more often because you’re feeling successful.
7. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
I’d like to end on this note here because I think it’s a good rule of thumb for all areas of our lives. If you’re scrolling through social media, or Medium, or other blogs and thinking “Man, I wish I was doing what this person is doing,” I want you to stop and ask yourself a couple questions.
How long do you think this person has been working to get where they are now? How many failed posts do you think are behind the successful one you’re looking at? What do you think they feel about their writing? Are they insecure about it like you, but hiding it from the world? (Spoiler: Probably.)
Everyone has a different path to get to where they’re going, and everyone’s destination is different. Social media is life curated. You don’t see the failed blogs with embarrassing names, or the horribly written posts that have been deleted and never talked about again. You don’t see the months they had no idea how they were going to pay rent, or the weeks they were too busy trying to be able to pay the bills to write. All that matters is that you feel like your work is good and represents you well, and that you feel improvement in your journey.
What do you think?
So I gave you a few tips here, but what else can you do to better your writing? Have you tried any of the above tips — what did or didn’t work for you? Leave a comment below and let’s talk about it.
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