The unique thing about writing is that you may spend weeks, months or even years laboring over your work, before it sees daylight. There are times during the process when you will feel thrilled, excited or just plain proud as the story unfolds, emerges and grows into what you intended. Our books and stories are like our babies. It’s quite normal to think that your own baby is the cutest and the brightest (Look she mimics the sound a cow makes!), but it’s when we’re in the company of the mothers with the babies that are speaking complete sentences and sitting on the potty while thumbing through the latest Highlights magazine by age 2 do we fret and wonder if ours is good enough.
The same applies to our writing; when it’s time to hand it over to the world we began to wonder if it’s any good. The truth is that it will never be good enough. We will always think of ways we could’ve plotted differently; we could’ve added more dialogue or been more descriptive, etc. But it is our effort that must be complete. In other words we gave it all we had at that time.
As writers we have inside this gift or unction to communicate via the written word. This gift is already in you. You possess it. It is the main tool that you will need to create beautiful poetry, engaging fictional stories or intriguing non-fiction. Of course there is more but no matter, remember you possess the most important thing: the ability to write. God, our divine creator did that for you, gave it to you, not so that you can pout about what it is lacking but to perfect it and use it for the intended purpose. There it is: we were designed to succeed. We were not designed to fail. Take what you have and make it work.
Why is it that so many of us seem to fail in spite of this?
Talents and Gifts must be honed. The stories are inside but in order to get them on paper there are so many things to do beforehand. And here are a few that may be necessary:
Go where your writing drives you. Let’s face it, you won’t write in every genre. Focus on what is meaningful to you. Perfect one area at a time.
Take some classes. O.K. maybe you do have a degree in Chemical Engineering. But if your writing skills are rusty you may have to head back to school for a few courses.
Read. This is one for all of us. Read incessantly. Some say read in the genre you want to write. I’m with the group that says read it all. Well-written books are not limited by genre.
Write daily. It doesn’t have to be the 2000-word challenge which Stephen King puts to himself daily (that’s cool if you can). But just write: journal, blog; write newsletters, short stories or work on that novel.
Your first few pieces may fall flat. Keep at it. Keep in mind, no one ever got better by giving in to frustration. It is from these pieces that you will learn what doesn’t work.
There is the risk that you will stop just short of success. It may seem cumbersome and tedious in the beginning but the flow will come. You will get better, especially if you believe in the 10,000-hour rule which states that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill.
Remember you can do it. You were not designed to fail.
Books to help you hone your craft
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
The Elements of Style by William Strunk
On Writing: A memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
Writers’ Digest Magazine (not a book, but oh so helpful)
Writer’s Market (published annually)