To put pen to paper, or to sit in front of a screen as a blinking cursor highlights the white page. People, including world-famous authors like Stephen King right down to people who have never actually written a thing in life (apart from the assignments that no one can avoid during school) all seem to have opinions on how it should be done, the right environment, the right head space – hell, even the best beverage to be consuming as you bring your vision to life.
I have heard just about everything by way of advise.
- Figure out every minute detail of your characters, environment and plot before writing a single sentence.
- Don’t tell your characters what to do, they will figure it out on their own.
- You should only write in the morning when you are entering your day fresh
- Write at night, after your day is done it will be easier to figure out someone else’s.
- Always name your work as soon as possible, referring to something as “Untitled” is just soul destroying.
- Name your work near the end, once you know exactly what it is. Just like naming a child, it is always best to see what it looks like before slapping a name on it.
- Be prepared to murder your darlings
- Never throw out a single piece of writing, you never know when that random line is going to fit perfectly into something else.
I think one of the reasons that there are so many conflicting pieces of advice is because writing really is a solo, highly personal experience. You spend hours, days, months or even years drawing words out of your soul. Your experiences, thoughts, feelings and idiosyncrasies form words which if lucky, will form worlds and characters. Even the driest of texts which seemingly has nothing personal in it, for instance a training manual for staff, will still have the essence of the writer within. We are unable to craft something without giving up a part of ourselves. It is our gift and our curse.
I have written a number of novels, the occasional poem and lyrics and even the most outrageous of my work has an element of me within it. Some people will never understand the writers life. If you are lucky you will be surrounded by some who share an element of this life with you. Whether they are writers, artists or musicians, they will understand what it is like to surrender a piece of themselves in the creation of something else.
I have my own challenge for this year, in amongst the wedding planning, work and every day living. My goal is to finish a novel I started 6 years ago. It may seem like a long time ago and in some ways it is, however I can still remember first putting pen to paper as the world was conjured up. Some things crave life and will do whatever they can in the quest towards it. For me, this novel is one of those beings quietly making its way towards the light, willing me to imbue it with breath.
My only piece of advice for anyone want to write is this. Just do it. Don’t allow yourself to be your own worst critic (guilty), don’t allow everything else to get in the way. If it is something that you want to do just do it. Put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard and let the words flow.