Being a writer does not mean sitting and waiting for the inspiration. It's a life of hard work and perseverance, and each writer must find a way to keep their own inner flame burning.
Below is a collection of 7 approaches from 7 authors, each of whom found their own methods that allowed them to keep producing amazing work.
- 1. ‘If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.’ — Margaret Atwood
- 2. "Write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next." — Ernest Hemingway
- 3. ‘If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.’ — Stephen King
- 4. ‘No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.’ — Robert Frost
- 5. ‘Easy reading is damn hard writing.’ — Nathaniel Hawthorne
- 6. ‘Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.’ — Zadie Smith
- 7. ‘Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously.’ — Lev Grossman
1. ‘If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.’ — Margaret Atwood
This is true at all stages of writing. You don't need to have the perfect story fleshed out in your mind before you begin. Every sentence you write in your first draft does not have to be flawless—that's what editing is for. Your work does not have to be perfect before you share it with others. And Atwood understands that a story is never really finished; writers are rarely fully satisfied with what they have written. There just comes a time when you must stop tinkering with it and set it free into the world
As soon as we face the fact that we can never write a perfect novel, we will be able to deal with our writing.
2. "Write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next." — Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway was the embodiment of the keep-the-fire-burning type. He traveled, fought in wars and played with wilderness. He also knew that a thing such as writer’s block exists and he solved this problem in a rather unusual way.
In his amazing interview with George Plimpton, Hemingway said that he always planned what to write the following day before finishing his work for the current day. This way, he never faced a blank page in the morning and this put him in the continuous and productive mode that he maintained until finishing the piece.
3. ‘If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.’ — Stephen King
This famous quote by Stephen King is something you have probably heard a million times before. But reading is essential for writers, as is paying attention to the details. When musicians listen to a song, they can tell C major from C minor, in which key the song is written, and what scales are used in a solo.
The same principle applies to writers: they should always look for the literary and language devices used in the book they're reading in order to interpret them and learn from them. Click here to check out Stephen King's Reading List for Writers.
4. ‘No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.’ — Robert Frost
When you are writing, you must be able to put yourself into the scene and feel the emotions of your characters. You must experience the anguish of lost children and the rage of injustice. If you do not feel it, neither will the reader.
5. ‘Easy reading is damn hard writing.’ — Nathaniel Hawthorne
Many inexperienced writers want to fill their texts with literary devices, metaphors and complex symbolism to impress their readers. Certainly this can add depth and layers to your writing, but the key is to make them flow so naturally and seamlessly in your writing that your reader barely knows they are there. If they need to stop reading to digest, then you have lost them.
6. ‘Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.’ — Zadie Smith
The creative process requires focus. Anything worth reading comes from one's inner self and writers need solitude to explore that world.
This is particularly difficult for writers, many of whom work from busy homes populated by partners, children, shopping lists, and overflowing laundry baskets. Distractions are everywhere and, because you are accessible, you are seen to be available. Do whatever you have to do to demarcate your writing time. Make everyone (yourself included) understand that you are not to be disturbed.
7. ‘Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously.’ — Lev Grossman
Perhaps this is ironic at the end of an article all about writing advice, but stay with me. Writing is as individual as each writer. Listen to the masters but hold on tight to your personal voice and process. And check out this great post: Why You Should Not Copy the Masters where we go further into the idea that you should be learning from, not copying, your favorite writers.