It’s Not You. Life Advice for Writing.
My life lately has been a non-stop, full force barrage of travel, celebration of major life events with friends and family, the usual team activities, and a whole (un)expected mess of personal troubles that has left me emotionally drained. Oh and I’m still editing, of course. Always editing.
So in the past few months, I’ve been recalibrating and reevaluating. Asking myself questions that I thought I’d already answered. Recognizing that the future I’d envisioned was changing; and that was probably a good thing, even if change is terrifying and my knee-jerk reaction is to fight against it.
I’ve also been reconnecting with friends. Good friends. The friends that I have held onto throughout the years not only because I enjoy their company, but because they understand me, care about me, and each is the type of person I strive to be (and hope I am).
These friends have done what good friends do – they’ve given me advice and listened to me as I work through everything in my head. I’ve listened too. And after a bit, I realized that a lot of what they were saying could also be applied to my writing. So I wanted to share some of that life advice for writing.
“Just push through it.”
Things will get better. Even if you’re stuck on a scene or you’ve reached the point where you feel torn between hating what you’re writing and loving it, don’t give up. Push through your writer’s block or doubt. Just keep writing and even if your first draft needs a LOT of revision, at least you’ll get over that bump and be able to move forward again.
I’m a pretty busy person and always have been, but this advice has always been important for the writers I know since we’re prone to over-thinking everything when given the opportunity (however slight), and we tend to obsess over things. So when you’re writing, don’t dwell too long on a sentence. When you’re editing, don’t overthink a comment you’ve received or a workshop note. If you need to put a piece aside for a bit before returning to it, that’s fine; but always keep your writing life full.
“Sometimes it’s best to just let it go.”
Most writers I know have that one piece that they’ve been working on for months, sometimes years. It’s an idea that they’ve had for so long that they feel like they’ve invested so much time and thought into it, it must be a brilliant, worthy concept, right? Yet it’s been a disaster every time they start to write it. The advice here? Sometimes it’s best to just cut your losses and move on. Maybe you’re just not the writer best fit to develop that idea and instead of continuing to pound your head against the wall, your time might be better spent working on a new project, or one where the words aren’t stuck. Or maybe it’s just not the right time for you to work on that project, so shelve it for the future.
One of the best speeches I’ve heard lately came from one of my good friends as we sat in a hole-in-the-wall Mexican take-out at 3:30 AM, after a night of tequila and whiskey drinking. (No hang on, it was actually a good speech). After walking me through some of the poorer decisions I’ve made in my life, this friend proceeded to tell me that what I have now is an amazing opportunity to “be selective” with what I want out of life, and not sell myself short. “Figure out where you want to be, and then start figuring out what you need to get there.”
I’ve always felt like this is something writers should do with their work as well. You invest so much time and energy into your writing, you better be selective in what you choose to write about, and what you choose to spend your days working on. It’ll show in your work and you’ll be happier overall in the end with what you’ve accomplished.
“It’s not you.”
So we’ve all heard this before, but I wanted to add it here because so many writers I know have, at some point, experienced a major crisis of confidence. And you know what? It’s not you. You’re amazing. Even if you’ve recently received a scathing review from a critic or just an unenthused shrug from a friend after reading your work (which can sometimes feel worse than that critic’s review), don’t beat yourself up about it. If you want to be a writer, and you love writing, and you feel like your life would somehow be worse (or emptier) without it, then damn it – keep writing.
“Don’t be a stranger.”
I can sometimes be a recluse. Especially if I’m not feeling too good about what I’ve been writing lately, that feeling can transfer to an unwillingness to get out of the house and visit people. But writing is such a solitary act that I strongly believe writers need to surround themselves with good people and other writers. Definitely your friends and loved ones. So don’t be a stranger, even if you’re in a rut (or conversely, knocking out page after page a night). Inspiration can come from those you surround yourself with, and life is there to be lived too, not just written about.
So there you have it. What about you? What advice have you received lately that could be applied to your writing? Share in the comments section below, and keep writing!
Posted on: September 16, 2014adoylewriter