Sometimes we think that we are special, that certain things just don’t apply to us. We convince ourselves that we are the exception. We make exceptions of ourselves without any good reason, sometimes this response is reflexive. And I am no exception, I am guilty of doing the same. This post is about one area in where I have done this. The following is a list of some pieces of advice I thought didn’t really apply to me. Pieces of advice from other authors that I underestimated until now. The whole experience has taught me that if a lot of professionals are saying the same thing it probably works and often times we are the rule instead of the exception. It is my hope that you will read these and avoid making the same mistake I did, which was, put simply, not listening.
- Get a writing space
A writing space, somewhere it is just you and your desk and your computer or notebook. A space customized in such a way that it maximizes your efficiency, lowers distractions, sustains your effort and nurtures your writing. There isn’t a standard way that your writing place should be, basically is has to meet the aforementioned goals. A typical writing place will be quiet, enable research, have resources like books and a dictionary. It is typically quiet , not silent, and fosters thinking because after all your mind is the most important tool here. Writing spaces account for efficiency for the same reasons libraries do.
Personally, I can’t work in silence, my thoughts become too loud for my liking and, therefore, distractive and any small disturbances can hijack any train of thought so I usually have music playing in the background. I have my dictionary, notepad and notes nearby. A bookshelf and some internet to access some articles and journals related to my work. So no social media during this time. But that isn’t the case anymore…sadly I don’t have a writing space at present. And the importance of one has never been more apparent. This means I’m constantly distracted, don’t have access to resources that I had and writing is a pain in the ass
While writing ‘Before the Cult’ I had some space, that was at my dorm room. Now I’m at home and circumstances, which are too complex to get into now, have led me to write and do all my work in the living room where my family hangs all the time. Although I’m considerably faster at writing the second book of the series, I could be a whole lot more productive with a writing space. Try writing with people trying to talk to you now and then, TV shows distracting you, music from TV, people conversing loudly around you and being asked to help with this and that now and then while you write. It freaking gets to you. You just want to scream and storm out, smash your laptop against the wall in a fit of rage or you find yourselves having constant disturbing fantasies on how to shut them up. I love my family but things gotta change quickly or I will lose my mind.
So get a writing space it is super important, I learned the hard way. I thought its importance was exaggerated but now I see it wasn’t, writing space is everything. If you have it treat it like a sanctuary.
Side to side with being told to write a lot we are constantly advised to read. Not just read what you like or the people in your genre but read everything. The benefits of reading as a writer can never be overstated. Here are a few things you can get from reading.
Your vocabulary will improve not only that but you will be more articulate in your writing.
You encounter how some writing techniques and dramatic devices are used, often in ways you might have never thought therefore expanding ways you can implement writing techniques. This increases your writing’s virtuosity.
You get to learn not only what to do but what not to do.
Information you get, regarding non-fiction, will someday matter or become useful in one scene or another. If not it will enhance something you already writing.
If you are very analytic you will learn about making even more killer plots, characterization and structures.
Reason inspires and the same time equips.
Sure there is more than can be added to the list above. I have always been a reader but the fact that I underestimated the importance of this advice at one time is so ironic considering how I learned English. English is my second language. How I learned to speak and write in English is testament to the power of reading in general. I taught myself all I know about the English language. You want to know how and why?
Well, my cousin, who attended a better school in the suburbs and spoke fluent English, always thought I was creative and I always told him stories that I created. He was shocked when he heard I had never seen the Lion King, so he offered to take me to the library and read the book to me. It was a picture book, and I was probably too old for those at the time. The book was in English, so he would read a sentence and translate the words into my native language. We read about a quarter of the book together, and then he told me the rest of the story and suggested we write a sequel. Our projected began. I didn’t know any English so I just said a couple of things and he wrote them down in English. But I also wanted to read and understand English, to be able to write for a wider audience. So when he left after the holidays, he was visiting, I went to the library each day with the sole purpose of learning English . I’d picked up a book and a dictionary and read, every second and third word I would have to check a word in the dictionary. The definitions themselves would be so difficult to understand that sometimes I looked up words used in the definitions. No matter how futile it seemed I wasn’t easily deterred. Six picture books, half dozen comic books and a couple novels later I could read and understand English. A read one book on the rules of the English language and how it functions and I was set for life.
Reading with purpose and focus really helps. I forget that sometimes. It is so ironic considering that is how I learned English, I learned to read it before I could speak it. If reading could do this for me imagine what it could do for an author reading with a purpose. When we read as authors let us not forget to read with a purpose, this does not mean you can’t have fun. Damn, I enjoy the books I read even better the more I study them.
So write a lot, read a lot and have a writing space. If you have a writing space worship it.
One of the big advices given is to live life. There are certain things that you can truly understand through experience. I’m not asking you to go buy a gram of coke or start drama in your relationship so that you would ‘experience’ something in the name of strengthening your writing. No, tragedy will find you. Live is already throwing enough stuff at you to make your writing credible all you have to do is be aware of it. Be mindful of your experiences. A lot of the time we are absorbed in our little heads and tangled in our own thoughts that we forget to observe and experience the things surrounding us. Be five senses aware of what is going on around you. Tune your senses up now and then. Next time you have steak try closing your eyes and focus on how the meat tastes like with each chew. Don’t let conversation sway you from experiencing it. Next time when you take a walk try tuning into how the sun pelts your skin and smell the air.
That is what it means to live. It is essentially to experience and be mindful of your experiences…whether it is happiness, drunkenness, heartache, cuisine, walks and your sensuality.
This is lesson was never more important than when I was writing Before the Cult. Like I said, during the writing of that novel my dark experiences helped me create an experience for the reader. I walked into my experience library and drew some unpleasant ones because, after all, I was writing about a delusional depressive. I’m aware you can’t be mindful all the time but try practicing it now and constantly to add to your internal library of experiences or a notepad you keep on you.
Thanks for reading folks.
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And now to leave you with a song lyric which may or may not have anything to do with my post:
“Stuck in this hole with the shit and the piss
And it’s hard to believe it can come back to this
Back at the beginning
Sinking…spinning” – Nine Inch Nails ‘The Wretched’