I dedicate this piece to Firsty, whose pieces sparked me to consider writing down advice I’ve given to many new and experienced writers.
1. Write often. Write as much as you can, wherever you can, and whenever you can. I’ll say more later about the “when” part — partially because it’s one area Firsty and I differ on — but for now just do this for me: Say the words, “I write, therefore I am.” Go ahead, I’ll wait. Ok, good.
2. Don’t seek perfection when first writing. There’s a reason this experience of putting words together in a way that is meaningful is called writing. Notice it’s not called editing, it’s not called cutting and pasting, and it’s definitely not called rewriting. There is a time and place for editing and, yes, rewriting what you wrote, but that time is later in the process.
3. Use writing exercises, like Writing Down the Bones. Why? I can give you three reasons off the top of my head: 1) Having someone else choose the topic will spark ideas you might have not previously contemplated. 2) Material you did not even know you had will come spilling from your brain through your fingers onto the page. 3) It forces you to turn off your inner editor.
That last one is key and is my next point.
4. Lose your inhibitions as much as possible. I write everywhere (following my rule #1). You name it, I’ve written on it. I’ve written on everything from napkins to newspapers to crossword puzzles to receipts. The only thing I don’t think I’ve written on is a condom and that’s because that spermicidal stuff is yucky to write on.
The point is I know I get weird looks from people who see me writing a 100 word summation for a story that came to me while I was having dinner at McDonalds, curious as to why I’m using paper placemats and brochures to write it down. I know those people think I’m a freak, but I don’t care. I know I will get something interesting out of it and it’s worth it.
If you become self-conscious about what people are thinking you as you write — or read what you wrote — that is a stumbling block you are putting in your own way. It’s the same as saying, “Oh I don’t want to write because I can’t write as well as (fill in the name of author here).”
To quote Pink Floyd, “Tear down the wall!” Remove your inhibitions and you will find it easier to write. The more you write, the more good ideas will come to you.