Giving writing advice is cliché and annoying, but I’m gonna take a crack at it anyway. Here are five things that helped me out along the way.
#1 – Write every day.
You’ll hear this advice a lot, if you’re tuned into the writersphere. This is the biggest piece of advice anyone gives. All the specifics vary wildly from person to person, but everybody agrees you need to write every day. Sitting down, staring at the blank page, and writing a single word… That’s enough, at least for starters. You can work on increasing volume after you’re habitually writing.
#2 – Build habits.
The things we do automatically are important to control. Habits, once built, require zero effort to maintain. That’s why it’s so hard for some people to start writing every day. Until you make a habit out of it, it requires constant effort. However, there are other habits that people don’t talk about as much, when it comes to writing.
There’s a mental habit that many writers have, where you will constantly berate yourself if you’re not writing. You will drown yourself in excess food, entertainment, drugs, or alcohol. You will mindlessly chase oblivion, all in the hopes of avoiding doing the one thing you’re supposed to do. This is because writers, as a demographic, are fucking insane. We are, and that’s why we can do what we do. That’s why it’s important to use that impulse to your advantage. Take those feelings of self-hatred and turn them towards writing. Use it as a trigger to prompt you to hurry up and write. If I miss my writing, even for a single day, I immediately start feeling fucking horrible. I start hating myself, and I slip into depression. So, to avoid this negative consequence, I generally take the better option of just fucking writing.
In short, use your pain to your gain. Make writing the less painful option in your mind. The brain loves traveling the path of least resistance, so figure out how to make not writing harder than writing.
#3 – Use stimulants.
The stereotypical writer sits at a desk, puffs on a cigarette, sips a cup of coffee, and slaves away at his work. This stereotype exists because cigarettes and coffee pep you the fuck up. I don’t recommend taking up smoking, but there’s something about sipping a cup of joe as you write that just feels right. If you can, brew a fresh pot before you start writing. Any time you reach a point where you aren’t sure what to write next, go get a refill and let your thoughts relax for a bit.
#4 – Don’t idealize your ideas.
It’s tempting, as a writer, to build up your ideas in your head. You have an idea for a novel, or several, but you can’t quite sit down and work on them because anything you do will never be as good as the perfect ideal inside your head. This is just a clever excuse your brain will use to avoid writing.
If you must, hold off on writing your favorite idea until you’ve cut your teeth as a writer. First write something you’re less emotionally invested in. Write some poetry, or short stories, or a novella. Just write some stuff and finish it. Whatever you do, just keep finishing stuff. Half-finished projects are worthless.
Once you’re writing every day, and you feel comfortable enough in your writing to tackle a big project… Then, finally, you can start writing the big thing. Don’t jump in head first hoping to learn how to swim on the way there. That’s why every fucking writer in the world is “writing a novel” but only one in a hundred ever finish one.
#5 – Stop talking about it.
If you finish a project and you want to share it with people, that’s absolutely great. The whole point of writing is for other humans to read what you’ve written. Writing is a form of expression made for other people, so it’s completely natural to want to share it.
However, don’t fucking talk about it until it’s done. Don’t tell your friends you’re working on a novel. Don’t talk about the idea. Don’t talk about your process. Don’t fucking say anything to anyone about it until it’s done. At the very least, finish the first draft of your novel before you say anything about it.
Now, there is a good reason I’m so adamant about this. I’m not just an asshole who doesn’t want to hear about your writing, far from it. See, when you tell someone about your writing, your brain will start to see it as complete. Your brain really likes talking about your writing, because talking is easier than writing, and talking about it gives your brain a sense of accomplishment. The other person will respond (usually) positively to your idea, and this will release dopamine in your brain. Subconsciously, you will begin to see the idea as static, as complete, and your actions will reflect that.
So don’t talk about it until it’s done, or you’ll never fucking finish it. Guaranteed. If you’re already an established writer, maybe you get a pass on this one, but never fucking talk about your first novel until it’s on paper.
If you have any thoughts or questions, please leave a comment down below. It might take me a while to see it, but I will always respond.