In many years of writing, I have heard over and over again how hard it is to write, how much a writer must sacrifice for his or her art, how we must bleed upon the page if we hope to call ourselves writers. Of course, I’ve heard, too, of that most-lamentable condition called writer’s block. It’s one more of the perils that face those who dare to pick up paper and pencil and express their thoughts.
Whenever I hear complaints such as these, one thought quickly comes into my head. If it’s so hard for you, why do you do it?
Let’s look at geometry for a moment. In school, I made good grades in geometry, but I hated the subject. It involved so much tedious measurement! Today, in art work, I still don’t like geometry, so I avoid drawings that rely heavily on architectural perspectives and those dreaded angles. In other words, geometry is a useful skill for many, but one I use only if I must.
Why should it be different for writing? Just as I would never want a job that required me to use geometry on a daily basis, why would anyone who finds writing difficult ever want to be a writer? Now, please, don’t tell me that I don’t understand what writing is all about. Trust me, I do.
If you really want to suffer for your art, go right ahead. But just remember, it doesn’t have to be that way. Writing can be — and in my opinion, should be — a lot of fun. Especially with Sim-Lit. After all, this is a genre based upon playing a game. If that’s not a recipe for fun, I don’t know what is!
The trouble a lot of struggling writers have comes from taking themselves too seriously, and from worrying too much about getting the words right. If there’s one simple secret to writing, it’s this: the more words you write, the easier it becomes, and the more words you write, the greater the likelihood that you’ll find the right ones.
Don’t ever be afraid of writing badly. Why not? Because bad writing can be improved. You can’t do anything with a blank page, however, except stare at it. The problems you face in writing can usually be corrected by writing more.
Sure. Practice does lead to improvement, especially if you’re truly passionate about what you’re doing and are willing to learn from your mistakes.
But what should I write about? Where do I start? How do I know what to say?
You don’t have to know what to say when you start.
The point is, if you want to write, sit down and do it. Don’t worry about choosing the right word, just write every word that comes to mind. Put down a dozen different thoughts. You can sort them out later, once they’re on the page. Forget about spelling, and for the moment, don’t even think about grammar. Spelling can be checked; bad grammar can be corrected. Unnecessary words can be removed, and jumbled thoughts can be put in order.
I know, you’re not convinced. You’re still shaking your head, mumbling that I just don’t “get it”. It’s not easy to write, you have to be inspired, you have to have some ethereal muse hovering about, tormenting your soul…or whatever it is that people think muses do.
Hate to burst your bubble, but writing is easy, you don’t have to be inspired to do it, and if you want to be a writer, you have to become your own muse. Tormenting your soul, by the way, is not part of the job description.
A writer’s job is to write. Oh, sure, there’s a little more to it than just writing, but that’s where it begins. You sit down and you write. About what? About anything. You write, you explore your thoughts, and you put your imagination to work.
You write silly things. You write bad things. You write the most outlandish, ridiculous things you can think of. Sometimes you even do it deliberately…because it’s so much fun. You write fast, you write furiously. You wander off on tangents and fall into gaping plot holes. Oh, well. It happens. You just keep writing.
Don’t know where to go next? No plot? No problem. Grab a dictionary, open it at random, and take the first word you see. Find a way to use it. Got a book of story starters or writing prompts? Take an idea and make it work for your story. Indulge yourself in a bit of stream of consciousness writing — just sitting down and writing whatever comes to mind.
Play with words. Play with writing. Make up creative exercises, such as describing twenty ways a character might walk: he ambled, he sauntered, he limped… Or try listing as many “dialogue tags” as you can: she postulated, she opined, she posited. Note: Once you’ve come up with these awful tags, throw them away. The best dialogue tag is still “said.”
Write from different points of view. Write in present tense. Write from your memories or write from your dreams. Just write, and keep on writing until you can’t write any longer. Stop, take a break, and then come back and do it all over again.
Here’s a little challenge for you. Sit down today and take a look at the time. Write down the time, in fact. Then start writing about anything and everything that comes to mind. Just ramble on for as long as you want. Stop, look at the time, and write it down. How long did you spend writing before you ran out of words? Five minutes? Fifteen? Two hours? It doesn’t matter how long you wrote. This is only the starting point. Just make note of the length of time you spent.
Tomorrow, sit down again and repeat the exercise. This time, however, add five minutes to the previous day’s writing session. Set a timer so you’ll know when to quit.
The following day, add another five minutes. Repeat this every day until you’ve doubled your original time. In other words, if you wrote for one hour on the first day, continue until your session reaches two hours.
You might also want to check out Stream of Consciousness Saturday, a blogging challenge which provides participants with a weekly prompt. No rules, no word length minimums, just writing purely for the joy of it.
Yes, writing should be joyful. It should be fun. So, if you really want to be a writer, learn now how to make writing the most enjoyable thing you do each day.