Many people have advice on writing. Both the experienced, and the not so experienced of us. The deluge of advice can be daunting, and not all of it applies to everyone. What works for me may not work for others. Maybe you need peace and quiet to write. Maybe you need quaaludes and a bottle of grandma’s Jack Daniels lemonade. Whatever works for you, that is something you must discover for yourself.
But, there are certain gems of advice that apply to all writers of every kind. Here is one of them, that I’ve heard from many famous writers and books on writing. Don’t be afraid to fail. In other words, your first attempts are going to be shite. They just are, unless your are some kind of quasi-retarded savante, or a plain genius. If you are either, then you probably write best whilst wearing grandma’s underwear and drinking midget sweat from a mason jar. Anyway, this doesn’t apply to you.
When I first began writing, I was petrified to show people my work. In fact, I was so afraid the stories wouldn’t be any good that I didn’t finish them. None. It took me over three years to finish a piece. That one wasn’t that great either (Sentinel, if you were wondering, in the story section), but it felt good to finish it. Then, I finished another, and another. Now, I am not prolific by any means. I can sit and pound out a short story in one sitting, but they often never see the light of day. Most of them are mediocre at best. When I showed them to a good friend of mine, who is afflicted with honesty syndrome, he gave me the “eh,” and I wanted to crawl into my sleeping bag under my bed and live by hunting dust bunnies. But a man cannot live on dust alone.
So, I forged on. And, I stopped showing the stories to friends and family. Some of you may want to, but I choose not to. My wife does not like the kind of fiction I prefer to write, so it makes no sense for her to be a critical reader. She is the wrong audience. It is like handing the Qur’an to a Southern Baptist for a review. Ain’t gonna happen.
What then? Well, I found a local writing group. At least there, I had no emotional investment in their opinions, and it was a type of support group when the fiction was bad and in desperate need of a complete overhaul.
One of the hangups I had when trying to get myself to finish the stories was that I enjoyed the idea so much I did not want to sully it with my horrid prose. Instead, I cradled those ideas into a gorilla death-grip until they suffocated in my pasty pecs.
So, please, if you take anything away from this post, understand that if you are just starting out, you must, MUST write those stories as they come to you. Don’t wait. Write and finish them. Then, later when you are more accomplished, come back to them if you must (though I advise you to forge on instead). Write badly. Don’t think about what you are writing until the revision phase. Then, make note of your mistakes when you have some distance from your work.
If that doesn’t work, get angry. Get fired up. Anything to keep writing.
I may be preaching to the choir here, but that is okay. I don’t mind repeating good advice.
(Photo idea shamelessly stolen from Literature and Libation…)