Ten Truths Every Writer Should Know
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We all need a little encouragement from time to time.
I don't know about you, but never do my writing doubts hit harder than when I'm trying to pursue a big goal or I'm working under pressure — two things you're likely experiencing now that we're a few days into National Novel Writing Month.
But even if you aren't trying to write 50,000 words this month (or if you're reading from the future. Hello!), we all need some encouragement as we make our way through this crazy, messy writing life. That's why I'm bringing you ten encouraging writing truths today! Shall we dive in?
Truth #1: You don't have to write every day.
For years, I was a huge proponent of maintaining a daily writing routine. I began writing every day after taking Faye Kirwin's Writember Workshop in February 2015, and I kept my daily routine for over 1,000 days straight.
I no longer maintain this habit, but I do encourage every writer to give daily writing a try. It's important that all writers maintain consistency in their practices, and a daily writing habit is likely easier to keep than you'd think. That said, it won't be the right choice for every writer.
We all have different processes. While I can make ten minutes to write most days, others can't find their groove in that short a session. They work best when they have an hour or more to put into their work, and heaven knows most of us don't have that much time to write every day — and that's okay.
Put in the time when you're able, and in a way that best suits your creative process, and your writing life will thrive!
Truth #2: You aren't any less a writer if you start later in life.
You often hear stories of authors who've been writing since birth. Their passion seems to be an all-consuming fire; they simply don't feel alive if they aren't writing! No one would ever doubt that such a writer wasn't a "real" writer, yet so many of us do question our writerly self-worth.
The simple truth is that it doesn't matter when you discovered your love for writing, nor even when you began pursuing it, if those two moments aren't the same. If you're writing now, you're a writer — and that's that. So, go own your status, writer!
Truth #3: You don't need talent to be a writer.
To piggy-pack off our previous truth, you also aren't any less of a writer if you aren't some sort of writing prodigy. Yes, some writers are gifted. But there are plenty of writers, both published and unpublished, who've fought tooth and nail to strengthen their skills simply because they wanted to tell their stories.
That hard work and dedication to your craft? That is what makes you a writer. Not inherent talent. So get out there and write, my friend.
Truth #4: You WILL get better with time.
Over the years, I've spoken with many writers who've expressed disappointment in their skills. "I just don't know if I can do this," they say. "I love my story, but every time I try to write it, it sucks."
This truth may be similar to the previous, but I don't think it can be overstated: you are as great a writer as you work to be. Writing is like any hobby or skill, you need to learn the ropes and then practice, practice, practice before you produce anything of merit, but you absolutely will get better with time!
Truth #5: There ARE stories left to tell.
Sometimes it seems as though every story in the universe has already been written, but that's just not the case. Will every story be reminiscent of another? Sure. We are, after all, working within the confines of the human experience, and that only goes so far.
That said, every story can be unique. It's all about finding the right perspective. Can you tell a familiar story through a new lens? How can you take a classic trope, archetype, or cliché and flip it on its head?
Don't forget about the beauty that is you, my friend. Your personality, your struggles, your interests and experiences — these all give you an outlook on life that is entirely original, so use that. Harness what makes you you, and you'll tell a fresh and exciting story readers won't want to miss.
Truth #6: Your writing Style and Process Will be unique.
You are never going to write like every other writer. We all work in vastly different ways, writing vastly different stories. What works for one writer — be it a particular plotting technique, a certain writing schedule, or a style of prose — may not work for you, and that's okay.
Learn to rock your unique writing style and creative process. These two items may take some time and exploration to discover, but I promise it will be worth the effort. Trying to write like someone else will only leave you frustrated and questioning your writing skills.
Truth #7: It's okay to break writing rules.
There are many "rules" and guidelines that can help writers craft incredible stories. Personally, I believe all writers should have a strong understanding of these commonly accepted rules, as many can indeed prove very successful.
That said, it's okay to forge your own path. I only suggest that you do so with purpose. If you know exactly why you want to break a particular writing rule, you're all that more likely to do so in a way that has real power and will make an impact on readers.
Truth #8: It's okay to write in multiple genres.
It's often been said that to find commercial success, published authors should stick to writing in one genre. This advice is far from terrible. Make your name synonymous with that genre, and you'll find readers who will consistently enjoy your work.
But if you do want to write multiple genres, you don't necessarily have to publish under different pen names, as has been suggested. More and more, readers have begun to rely on an author's reputation when choosing future reads, rather than the genre of the read itself.
Granted, you probably won't encourage readers to pick up vastly different genres. However, if you do write multiple genres within the same umbrella category (think: speculative fiction, contemporary, or mystery-thriller), you aren't likely to run into issues when marketing your books to readers.
Truth #9: No one really knows what they're doing.
A strong understanding of the foundations of good storytelling is absolutely vital to a writer's success, yet no matter how well one knows their craft, there's always room for doubt.
Is that metaphor too cliché? Is this character well-rounded enough? Does my plot feel stale, even though I loved the premise when I first began? The day-to-day of our writing lives can be filled with questions that don't often have clear answers.
We can let these concerns stop us in our tracks, or we can rest assured that we're only experiencing what every writer has experienced before us and keep on working. With a little time and patience (and a whole lot of revision) we can craft stories we're proud to present to the world.
Truth #10: We all have doubts.
As writers, we all have healthy doubts that encourage us to improve our work, such as the concerns we addressed in our previous truth. But what about those gut-wrenching fears that seem to plague our darkest hours? Fears such as...
- I will never write well enough to publish a book.
- No one will ever read my work.
- All of this is a waste of time.
- I'll never be as good as that writer.
You're not alone in experiencing these fears. Barring perhaps only the narcissists, all writers experience doubts, no matter what stage of their writing journey they're at.
Here's the good news: the only way these fears can be made reality is if you do nothing to prove them wrong. You absolutely cannot fail in your writing life if you're focused on putting your best foot forward and working toward goals that will bring you joy regardless of their outcome.
We may not be able to control what agents or editors or readers think of our work, but we can continue to strive for personal greatness, crafting stories we adore and working to improve upon our skills. It's all about putting one word in front of another, writer.
Remind yourself of this powerful truth, then keep on keeping on!