Here’s Some Writing Advice You Might Find Helpful
He laughed at me.
That’s what one of my mentors did when my publisher handed him a copy of my first book and asked him to help promote it. Then he walked off. It was probably the single best piece of advice I ever got:
Nobody *has* to care about your writing.
When it comes to writing, experience like that is often the best teacher. In fact, that probably goes for anything you want to do.
Three years in a “prestigious” MFA program didn’t teach me much about writing at all. It probably made my writing worse for a while. I spent years unlearning everything. Getting a PhD helped me learn how to write stuffy academic articles, but not much else.
For the last four years, I’ve blogged almost every day. I’ve read thousands of blog posts by other writers. I’ve also spent a lot of time figuring out how to be a human being. That’s made the biggest difference.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
Read as much as you possibly can.
Stephen King said it best:
If you don’t have time to read, then you don’t have the time (or tools) to write.
Read for at least two hours a day. Do that for a few months, and you won’t need someone to explain why.
Don’t worry about “running out of ideas.”
99 percent of your ideas will come from here:
Like Neil Gaiman says, great writers don’t have more ideas. They’re just better at knowing when they have one.
Sometimes your writing is bad.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been writing, or how many viral hits you’ve had. Sometimes, you write crap. “Good” writers are just better at knowing when to rewrite, or start over.
Not everyone has to like your writing.
Trying to please everyone will make your writing bland. If you’ve pissed someone off, that’s probably a good thing.
Just don’t piss off everyone.
That’s a bad thing.
Be immune to success.
You could say fear of failure is your biggest enemy. Your second biggest enemy is success. You can’t keep writing the same version of a blog post that went viral six months ago. Someone already did that.
Do something slightly different.
Stop trying to be original.
You don’t have to write something that nobody’s ever seen before. You just have to write something you’re excited about. People are always going to hear echoes in your writing.
Stop trying to go viral.
Every single thing you write has the potential to go viral, as long as it’s sincere. That’s what people want.
Harness the power of your unconscious mind.
Put your unconscious mind to work when you get stuck. The next day, ideas will come tumbling out of your head when you least expect. Your unconscious mind is the most powerful tool you have.
Be a word sponge.
You are always a blend of what you read. That’s how language works. There’s no escape, and there’s no such thing as being completely original. Other writers speak through us.
Establish a routine, but don’t let it rule your life.
Writing routines are great, but they can also change. Let them. There’s as many writing routines as there are writers.
Read different stuff.
Don’t read the same stuff by the same people every single day. Pick up some Shakespeare, or some philosophy, or some poetry. Read something nobody else is. Develop your own tastes.
You’ll stand out.
Know your genre.
If you want to write crime novels, then read crime novels. If you want to write blog posts, then read blog posts. Read a lot of them.
It’s that simple.
Know your platform.
Different platforms are built for different types of writing. Your writing grows into the space you’re using. It changes. Pay attention to what does well on your platform, and what doesn’t.
You don’t have to copy it.
Just be aware.
Put in the time.
There’s no shortcuts to success as a writer. It takes years of consistent work. You’ll go through peaks and valleys.
You’ll want to quit.
Don’t put in too much time.
Three or four hours a day at the keyboard, that’s it.
I’ve tried writing for longer.
It doesn’t work.
You’re always writing.
If you’re a writer, then almost everything you do is writing. Everything you say, think, observe, or experience is material.
There’s more to the job than writing.
Sitting down to write is one part of being a writer. Other parts involve networking and marketing. And then there’s reading, living, rest, and learning — they’re all important.
It’s okay to walk away.
Some writers step away from their keyboard for months, even years. They leave one genre for another, and then they come back.
That’s not giving up.
Learn how to adapt.
Don’t get stuck in the mud of the same style or genre, spinning your wheels. If you’ve been banging out self-help listicles for years and now things are difficult, then try something else.
Don’t put yourself in a box.
A box is a coffin.
Read your comments.
Some writers don’t read their comments at all. It shows. They don’t learn anything from their readers, when they could. If you want to be a great writer, you can’t be fragile. You have to be tough.
Don’t rant to editors and agents.
Long rants make you look like an amateur. If you have a problem, then speak up and get to the point. Then move on…
Don’t worry about sounding negative.
Satire and critique aren’t negative. They’re productive. If you’ve got something to say, speak your mind in your writing.
Don’t apologize for it.
Don’t complain to your readers.
One morning, I logged onto Twitter. The first thing I saw was a writer complaining about his stats and views, and how unappreciated he was. It didn’t make me want to read his stuff.
Don’t be that dude.
Don’t let someone’s jealousy get you down.
Your success can breed inspiration, or it can breed jealousy. If someone’s jealous of you, that’s their problem.
Let them deal with it.
Learn to write anywhere, anytime.
It would be great if you always got a quiet, clean room to write in whenever you felt like. A lot of times, you don’t.
You can write in the back of a car on your phone. You can write in your head while driving. You can write while bouncing a baby in your lap.
It’s just harder.
You can rewrite old posts.
If your brilliant article or blog posts doesn’t go viral, then you can rewrite it later. Just take the concept, and start from scratch.
Don’t apologize for your writing schedule.
If you feel an urge to write, then do it. Your friends and family are going to have to get used to that.
Don’t forget to live.
Life doesn’t go according to plan, and that’s a good thing. That’s called living. Write about that.