11 Writing Tips From A Passionate Love Affair
The relationship between writer and writing is like a passionate love affair. We love, we hate; we cry, we laugh; we’re on, we’re off. We ignore each other, obsess over each other; throw roses, throw plates. All in the silence and stillness of a solitary place.
Back in my teens and early 20s I was a sucker for a tragic love story – the words of Tennyson; the art of JW Waterhouse.
Once, in an effort to console my broken heart, Mum told me love should be like an old pair of comfy slippers. Oh gawd I thought. Now that is tragic. How boring. How unromantic.
I’m still not completely sold on the comfy slippers thing, but I sure am done with tragic.
Here are a few things that have made my relationship with writing less tragic and a little more comfy:
Do it first. Get up early and write. Before anyone else is awake - even the birds, especially the kids. You can stay up late if that works for you too. Personally, despite being more of a night owl than an early bird, this doesn’t work so well for me. If I don’t write first up, I’ll procrastinate the crap out of it until completely copping out with the whole tomorrow is another day sham.
'A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.' ― Richard Bach
Create a Ritual
Make a time each day to do it. Create a ritual around it. I wake up when it’s still dark, light a candle, meditate, make tea, then I begin. Not only is morning the best feasible time of day for me, having written also gives me a sense of accomplishment that sails me through the rest of the day.
Even if you feel like you have no inspiration, write anyway. This is where a writing ritual comes in handy. Go through the motions and sit your butt on that seat and write. Whatever works for you. Just write. About anything that’s in your head if you don’t have a specific topic idea at that moment. One will come. Even “blah, blah, blah” will eventually lead to something.
'You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.' ― Jack London
Do The Work
Inspiration is great, but as Steven Pressfield says in his brilliant little book The War of Art – “Do the work.” I.e. Sit your butt down, and show up, daily.
'We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.' – Thomas Edison
Grab Hold of Ideas
Email ideas to yourself the minute you have them. (Or keep a little notebook on you always.) For a long time, years in fact, I’d have an idea and plan to do something with it at some future point. But then it would be gone. Now I have a folder full of triggers and starters that I mine each time I need an idea.
'My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.' ― Anais Nin
I’d love to say I’m a voracious reader, but I’d be lying. I’m a slow reader, and sometimes I don’t have a book on the go at all… But when I do read, it’s the equivalent of pouring liquid fertiliser on my writing.
'Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.' ― William Faulkner
Write for You
Writing for an audience is good advice, and relevant. It’s high school English 101. But first and foremost, write for you. Write because you have to, because you’re committed. Not for money or fame… If you write for you first, that other stuff will come.
'The discipline of creation, be it to paint, compose, write, is an effort towards wholeness.' ― Madeleine L'Engle
Death to Perfectionism
With writing, I used to be a perfectionist. And where did that get me? A whole lot of first drafts that I either deleted or hid away and showed to no one.
Sure, edit your work. (As Hemmingway so characteristically put it - 'The first draft of anything is shit.') But don’t obsess over it. Get it out there...
Every writer should have a blog in my opinion. Somewhere they can be editor-in-chief. When you publish your writing, and thus share it with the world it becomes legit – like someone hearing the tree falling in the forest. And the feedback you’ll receive will be encouraging. Don’t worry, you are your own worst critic, I promise.
As a reader I get so tired of clichés and regurgitated ideas, and I bet you do too. What is exciting and compelling is an original story. And as writers we can tell this story because we’re living it daily. Maybe we bought bread, or nearly died. Both can be equally compelling. Great writing is honest, intimate and vulnerable.
'Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.' ― Brené Brown
Believe in yourself and that you can jump off ever higher cliffs. Because you can, and because when it comes down to it, everyone else has their own cliff to jump off and while they may encourage and support you, the only person who 100% cares about what you do and don’t do is YOU.
'We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.' – Kurt Vonnegut
So perhaps what we as writers, artists, creators and humans with heart should aim for, is a comfy pair of slippers with wings.
Leonie Orton is a writer, editor and marcomms consultant. She'll create communication mediums in the shape of words, graphics and webs for your business, connecting you with the people who need you. When she's not head down with this, she's teaching yoga, playing with flowers, growing vegetables and being a mother. Get in touch by email, facebook or subscribe to her weekly blog.