So ya wanna write, do ya? Well, join the club!
I imagined that in a nasally 1950s voice, spoken by a man in a gray three-piece suit seated in a smoke-filled den, dimly lit with a tumbler of whiskey in front of him. Sorry. I don’t know where that came from.
But seriously. You want to be a writer. You already are a writer, but you constantly feel like you’re not really a writer, not like the people who have published a book or built up an audience or even finished a manuscript (this last one is way harder than any of us ever imagine it will be, so don’t beat yourself up.)
Well, I’m here to help. I’m not a published author yet and I’ve been working on the same book for the past 2 years, along with several others, but I have been involved in writing communities since I was 16 (7 years now. God, I’m really getting old) and been an avid reader ever since I got my own copy of Because of Winn-Dixie from Target in the fifth grade.
So I’ve put together a list of 5 things real writers do. These are habits and traits that we, as cultivators and practitioners of creativity, should always strive to exhibit. Feel free to add your own words of wisdom in the comments below!
1. Real Writers Get Shit Done
They don’t set deadlines and then throw in the towel when they do not meet them. Guess what? Stuff happens. Maybe you got busy with work, got into a new relationship, had a baby, got a puppy, got sucked into Pokemon Go, built the next Twitter…or just had one-too-many Netflix binge sessions (is there even any other kind?)
Most of us will probably file our wasted time under the last one.
But it’s okay! The point is that you keep going and you write whenever you can. Don’t force it if the juices just aren’t flowing, but don’t allow your self-doubt or guilt over not being the writer you want to be keep you from finishing that damn book.
You will only become the writer you wish to be by actively embracing the writer you are now.
2. Real Writers Deviate from Their Norms
It’s great finding your niche and knowing what makes your brain’s right-side get all hot and bothered. But routine gets old. There will come a time when the swathe of routine gets too scratchy. When that time comes, you’re going to try and wrestle free in a way that’s pretty embarrassingly and will have everyone judging you for a long time afterward. Just ask England.
What’s worse than these poorly devised creative nervous breakdowns are the preceding long and tedious bouts of writer’s block and ennui. In order to prevent yourself from becoming the type of writer who dreads opening their manuscript every day, experiment! Find some creative writing exercises. Read different genres that you normally do. Write different genres that you normally do.
Take some of your favorite ideas that you have on the backburner and reimagine them as their complete opposites. After all, variety is the spice of life.
3. Real Writers Know Their Weaknesses
I’m not talking about kryptonite or secret fetishes. I’m talking about the aspects of writing that we all need to work on. These vary among writers, but every one of us still has some area in our work that could be improved upon.
Real writers don’t avoid their own work. They don’t look at a finished manuscript and think, “Well that was fun” and move onto the next one.
Real writers aren’t afraid to dive back into their own stories and pinpoint exactly what they want to do better with their next projects.
But real writers also aren’t masochists. And that brings us to number 4.
4. Real Writers Don’t Hate Their Own Writing (All the Time)
It’s perfectly acceptable to look over some of your work and think, “I could do better.” However, cringing every time you read something you wrote and wondering why you even bother in the first place is a major problem. Self-loathing is prevalent among writers, even world famous ones. Even if it is being exaggerated for comedic effect, there is still truth is withstanding.
Don’t feel like hating you writing is what this gig is all about. Some people might call you stuck up if you praise your own work but screw them. You have every right to love what you’re creating. Just don’t be a braggy jerk about it.
If you are one of those people who genuinely feels like they are not good at writing, but are cursed with having an unconquerable love for the craft, ask yourself the following.
Is my writing really that bad or am I just writing the wrong book?
You may be surprised to realize that the answer to your distaste for your own words is simply a result of whatever you’re working on.
5. Real Writers Make Hard Choices
A real writer knows when something just isn’t meant to be. Parting is such sweet sorrow, but so is rewriting the same chapter eighteen times and still not being happy with it. If you just can’t seem to capture a story the way you see it in your head, now may not be the time to write it. Maybe this is a story you have to work up to.
A real writer doesn’t quit, but they don’t struggle unnecessarily. They are able to accept the fact that there are many projects they will start that they aren’t going to finish. They do this not because they hate the ideas they are leaving behind, but because they know in their hearts that the ideas that lie ahead are far better.