Two Pieces of Writing Advice

I found myself in a lull in my own writing. I wasn’t really working on it. I’d open it once in a while. I took several writing courses. I would pay for a class and participate in the seminars, hoping for guidance from an authority. In a way it was sort of lazy, as though I were transferring the responsibility for the writing to someone else who knew better. In the last few weeks I’ve broken out of my rut. I stumbled across two writing aphorisms that really helped me and since adjusting my attitude I am writing around 1000 words a day.

The person in the way is YOU.

It can be all-too-easy to find reasons not to write involving other people. I’m so busy as a parent. I’m so busy with work. It’s really easy to follow this logic but you’re essentially saying other people are in the way or depriving you of the precious resource of time. When you realize YOU are the obstacle it is incredible how you can write at almost any time. You just end up choosing it over other activities like watching TV or scrolling on your phone.

Being a writer is unfortunately a very egoic prospect. Everything ego-driven seems to confer a special, elite status that doesn’t require any effort. If you say “I am a writer,” it’s an ontological statement, a declaration of who you are—you don’t have to work for it. If you want to get in shape you don’t suddenly declare yourself a “gym-goer” on social media. Set a routine and stick to it. The biggest obstacle is your own ego. That’s why writing classes don’t help you finish your book, because everyone is there to proclaim that they are writers, and that will suffocate creativity. Why work for something you already embody? Why fight for something that is an innate character trait? You are the obstacle. That realization is a way to claim responsibility for your writing goals.

Writing is something you make yourself do.

Writing is pleasure, but it is a lot like exercise. Exercise really makes you feel good while you are doing it but it can be really hard to make yourself go to the gym. You make yourself go to the gym because you know it’s good for you and it will make you feel good. Writing is the same way. It’s full of pleasure but it’s incredibly difficult. You have to make yourself do it. Open the file as fast as you can and force yourself to do it every day. Writing is difficult and lonely and nothing can change that.

These two pieces of advice helped me adjust my attitude. I think maybe I was waiting for a more experienced writer to “discover” my book and give my work their blessing. Everyone wants the praise that comes with the finished work. But the truth is, no one can teach you anything. Nothing will ever be finished. Push it forward every day. Writing isn’t the product of inspiration. It’s like working in a mine every day. It’s scary to go down there alone but that’s where the gold is. No one else is going to dig it up for you.