I heard a great radio commercial recently. Granted, it had to do with New Year's resolutions and weight loss, but I thought it applied nicely to a writer's world as well.
The commercial was bemoaning the fact that so many resolutions are about "don't." "Don't" eat junk food. "Don't" smoke anymore. That sort of thing. The commercial wanted the listener to focus on "do." "Do" get more exercise. "Do" enjoy healthier options for food.
So I was pondering, how do you turn a "Don't" into a "do" when it comes to the writing life?
First, what are the "don't" when it comes to writing?
There are a million of them. As I plow through the first draft of a new novel, I'm running headlong into a pile of "don't," and sometimes that makes me not want to write. For instance, when writing, many say, "DON'T just jump into a story. Think about the characters, write down their history, their hair color, their eye color, their favorite color. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD...DON'T JUST WRITE THE STORY!"
Let's start with the rough draft. I believe, and I think you can agree with me, the rough draft of anything should be about "DO!"
DO write everything you think is a good idea!
DO play with character names, back stories, physical features, everything.
DO write and write until all the words are down. Sure, a good percentage might stink. Sure, the words might not even be in the right order. BUT they are down and the only way you're going to write a novel is IF YOU ACTUALLY WRITE A NOVEL. There are no gold stars, no book deals, no book signings, no readings, no NOTHING for a pile of well researched notes and character profiles.
I tried to be super organized when I wrote "Fresh Ice." I had notes and profiles on every character. I had names and parents' names and pets' names and jobs and work schedules. And what happened?
My critique partner LOATHED the storyline. We came up with a new one, she and I, one frosty night while walking her dog. I love Fresh Ice now. I can't imagine how it would have turned out if I'd clung to the organization and time I put into a bad storyline.
Okay, what's another "Don't" in writing?
"Don't" get so serious about writing. It's just a hobby.
Oh please...DON'T GET ME STARTED!
Wait, no, DO GET ME STARTED!
Whether your friends, relatives, coworkers, daycare workers say this out loud or not...some of them are thinking it and it oozes out into what you do. This Don't becomes a BIGGER Don't because then we move into the "Don't tell anyone you're a writer, they'll just look at you funny."
Writing is a solitary activity, and therefore those around you who don't see what you do don't get what you do, unless you have a New York Times best seller sitting on the coffee table with your name on the OUTSIDE of the cover, not the INSIDE. (See, I made a funny!) I have relatives who knit, cross stitch, make Christmas ornaments out of broken glass, and I love them all. But theirs is a visible art form. Everyone sees what they are doing when they are doing it and then they go to craft fairs and sell these visible things. Most writers these days work alone, or in coffee shops, and the finished product, given the magic of e-readers, is not something you can hold in your hand.
That fact does not make your writing any less important. So DO take your writing seriously. If you don't, few else will. And DO tell everyone you're a writer. Wear a T-shirt, call book stores and pester them until you get a book signing. Tell your friends, your neighbors, your church friends, everyone that you are a writer and hey, you have a book/novel/poetry collection/short story collection available for sale. My favorite moment as a writer is when my church people come up to me. I had one woman introduce me to a friend once and say, "You wouldn't think she was just a quiet little church person when you read her books." (Something I think I should put on one of my covers, by the way!)
Friends, writing is sometimes a solitary thing. We all joke about the voices in our heads, but when it comes down to it, it can be lonely sitting there waiting for inspiration to return. So my biggest DO is DO find a writing group an DO make time to talk to other writers and authors. DO find a critique partner. DO share your writing with those who write. Over the years I've been blessed to be part of many groups, big and small, and I cherish the input I got from all of them. These days I don't have a ton of time, but I DO attempt to get to a writers' meeting every few months, just to touch base with others in the business. And of course I have my critique partners who are wonderful, tireless women I love to call my friends.
This is a New Year. DO what you DO and forget about everyone who says DON'T!