Writing is hard shit, and fiction is arguably harder than most. Before I got into blogging, I was perpetually working on a novel. (Pretentious yawn.) I pretty much worked on the same garbage-ass project from ages 14-17, and while there are rare cases where preteens have pumped out Quality Literature, I definitely did not.
Which doesn’t mean the whole operation was a waste of time. Even though I finally rounded the finish line, panting and sweaty, with a half-formed, plot-hole, cliche’d rough draft, I’m glad I did it. So even though I have no intention of ever putting my sad manuscript of Amateur Hero (yup, that’s the title) out for public consumption, I will let you read what I learned from writing it:
Life Lessons & Shit
- finishing things is important: starting novels is really easy. thinking of ideas is really easy. following through with a large project is really difficult and also the whole fucking point. finishing a novel, even though I finished it poorly, taught me that I could finish things. it was a lesson in how to put sustained energy into a project, even when my level of enthusiasm was lacking
a lot of people start writing something and don’t finish. a lot of people abandon their blogs after only a few posts. it’s easy to get discouraged when you don’t see success right away, and I think meandering around and making myself finish taught me how to deal with people not paying attention to me/my writing.
- how to write a fucking lot: if my first point was about long term writing stamina, this one’s about the short term. if you’ve ever cranked out a long-ish essay for school in one night, you know how draining it is. the thing is, writing is a lot like a muscle, and using it makes it stronger. writing a lot will make you more comfortable with writing, obviously. (journaling is also great to get you comfortable with writing.) so, as opposed to getting tired after 45 minutes of writing, like you might if you only write when forced to, you can build up to being able to write for several hours.
- how to be objective… it took me a long time to accept that everything I wrote was not going to be all good/all bad, and that I needed to learn how to evaluate myself without placing my entire self-esteem on the line. now I know that if I write something that’s crummy, I still have value as a human being and should keep trying and doing things I love. we (as human beings) are more than just our skills/lack thereof, and it’s important to keep that in mind, and the ability to honestly evaluate your own work is really useful. (my recommended method: pretend it’s somebody else’s writing)
- …and when to enjoy subjectivity: writing is fun for me, and sometimes I like to just have that fun and not worry about it.
- there’s not a muse, only your brain: it’s really fun when ideas are flowing freely and it seems like they’re just coming to you, but for all those other times, there’s brute force, brainstorming, mapping things out, and thinking them through, even though it’s tough.
through another lens, this means that you can work even when you don’t feel like it. contrary to what you may think, you don’t need to feel inspired. if you sit down and force yourself to write, it has the potential to be just as good as what comes out when words are gushing from your brain.
- revision. oh yeah, and revision. revision is extremely, vitally important!