1. Get started and the ideas will follow.
The number one thing holding us back, in almost everything, is getting started; more specifically, not knowing where to start. We mistakenly focus on figuring out how and when and with what, when none of that matters. The only thing that matters is moving forward, starting, from anywhere. You’ll only realize how you’re supposed to do it, once you’ve already done it. This is a fact of writing. We never know the road in advance, but still we take it, trusting that it will lead us somewhere worthwhile. Besides, we rarely find our best ideas right away at the onset; they almost always come to us after we’re already in progress.
2. Being a writer is a choice we make every day.
We don’t make the decision to be a writer once and for the rest of our lives that’s who we are. We make the decision once and every day thereafter. We make the decision every time we show up to write, every time we set aside space for it, every time we put ourselves in the necessary mindset and give it priority above all else. It’s similar to marriage in that we don’t get married once and stay married for the rest of our lives without having to maintain that marriage every day. We get married once and then we must choose to remain married every day that follows through commitment, dedication, and sacrifice; through compassion that proves itself during the toughest times. Marriage is a daily proclamation of love, and writing is no different.
3. Writing is a meditation - a practice of quieting the mind and listening with the heart.
Writing is not a process of thinking, but a process of listening. We must learn to quiet our thoughts long enough to listen to what exists beneath them. In order to listen with the heart, we must tune out the mind, which often speaks louder. We enter into a space of quiet, calm, non-insistence, and from that space we are able to listen to the intrinsic voice within. This is why writing is so therapeutic; it separates us from our thoughts, which are often destructive, and connects us with the truth that lies beneath them. We talk about the importance of being still and writing adds stillness to life; not only for the writer, but also for the reader.
4. Creating the time and space to write is an essential part of the process.
Every writer has their own preferred time of day to write, their own preferred space. What works for me won’t work for you, and vice versa. What time of day do you feel most inspired to write? For me, it’s early in the morning when the sun is hitting the trees and the lake outside my bedroom window. For some reason, this effect on the world outside has an effect on how I feel inside. I choose to write close to the earth, overlooking it. From my window I see tree tops, water, a few homes... Create an inspired space to write that you’ll love to show up to every day.
5. Sometimes we have to make ourselves write, and there is magic in that also.
Writing requires work. It requires effort. Like any great goal in life, it’s not easy, and I believe there would be a consensus on that from all great authors and unknown authors alike. If we had the opportunity to ask the question, “What inspired you to write?” the answer we would most likely hear would be, “I made myself write.” Far less enchanting than some story about inspiration that came in the middle of the night. What this means is that as much as we love writing, we also have to make ourselves do it. The combination to every great relationship is love and work. If we’re really honest with ourselves, we will realize that sitting down to write day after day, with every question and doubt and fear that we possess, and continuing to write in spite of it is actually far more magical than waiting for inspiration to find us.
6. Write about things that are universal and relatable.
It took me a while to realize that people don’t want me to confess my deepest soul secrets. They want me to confess their deepest soul secrets. They want to be able to see themselves in my words—to recognize their pain in my pain, their struggles in my struggles, their strength in my strength. So now, when I write, I try to think about what I’m saying objectively. I ask myself, Is this something others will feel? Is this relatable? Is this universal? When the answer is no, I save those writings for my journal. When the answer is yes, I save those writings for a book.
7. If you ever doubt your ability to write, get busy writing.
In my experience, writing has always seemed most difficult when I’m not doing it. During those times when I’m away from it or can’t make time for it, that’s when I doubt myself and worry. But when I’m back in the swing of things, following a consistent schedule, that’s when my doubts and worries go away. Knowing this is a lesson in itself, because it reminds me that if we’re ever feeling far away from our dream or worried about its attainment, we need only to get started doing it and develop a regular routine, in order to see the potential again to succeed. Nothing is more reassuring than the feeling we get when we are back in the flow and writing consistently.
8. Write what you absolutely must say during your lifetime.
When it comes to the question of what to write about: Don’t approach the thought of what to write about from an objective point of view. Never ask yourself, what should I write about? Or what would other people want to read? This takes us away from what we are individually capable of. It ignores passion and injects uncertainty. Ask yourself, instead, what am I dying to write about? What would I hate to leave this world without being able to say? That’s what you should write about.
9. Be willing to take a break from writing when it’s necessary.
Like every serious relationship, the relationship between the writer and the writing has its ups and downs. It’s impossible to wake up every day to the same commitments we adhered to the day before and not at times grow tired of them. There are moments when we have to look the other way, concentrate on something else, and step back from what we are doing, for the sake of our own sanity. We cannot expect to love or appreciate writing every moment of every day. There will be days when we wake up and we do not love the life in front of us, but that’s an essential part of the relationship. We wouldn’t choose it if it were easy, if it didn’t provide us with challenges, if it didn’t force us to face the darkest side of ourselves. Take a break from it and come back to it when you’re ready… it will be there.
10. Writing is a lifelong process, so relax and enjoy the journey.
For anyone who is struggling to become a writer, I would say, relax. Writing is a lifelong process; therefore it’s a lifelong process of becoming. It doesn’t matter if you have books published or if anyone identifies you as a writer yet. That will come, naturally, after years of writing. Keep your focus on your own process of becoming a writer, not on anyone else’s definition of what it means to be one. Writing is a lifelong pursuit. It isn’t something you can rush.
This list was adapted from a longer list of 20 Lessons.
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