“Writing is the socially acceptable way of getting naked in public. And in writing, getting naked is all about shedding your inhibitions, learning from self, learning from the greats and chartering a path along the road less traveled.”
Those were the golden words from my mentor, two years back. They have helped me achieve the following milestones:
- I wrote my 500th post last week
- I read my 50th book last week
- I got selected as a paid columnist in two leading publications last month.
But the journey is not done yet. It is mine to undertake every single day, and these pieces of advice from great writers helps me charter my path.
Writing and editing aren't meant to be done at the same time: they each require different mindsets. When you write, you should be loose, ambitious, and open-minded. Follow your creative instincts. Let the words flow. Let the story take you to unknown lands and unbelievable fantasies.
When editing, you need to get tough. Scrutinize your work. Find the heart of the story and carve away everything else. Be brutal and blunt, without remorse.
Always keep these processes separate. Stop editing as you go.
Merely writing about a subject after reading some books on it will not get you any brownie points. You need show, not tell. Readers want to see emotion in its raw form; feel the way your main character dug deep into their reserves of resilience and came out strong and shining.
They want your work to make them love, hate and laugh. If you are able to touch a vulnerable chord within readers, you're onto a winner.
This quote reminds me in glaring terms of my objective, which is to become a great storyteller. Great storytelling is only about ideas and nothing else. It's not about who can follow all the rules and syntax.
Just know enough grammar to be able to communicate properly and make your work readable. People who are insane sticklers for perfect grammar are rarely great writers.
In this fiercely competitive world, where millions of lines are vying to get a few minutes of attention from the reader, a thought-provoking headline helps entice the reader to open your article.
A good headline or title is the first bit of marketing that you can do to get your story going places.
This has to be one of the most brutal truths about writing that there is. Writing is not about appeasing your ego and your interests; it is always about the reader’s interests. What the reader doesn't like should not be there, simple as that.
Every word you write has to serve the goals of the larger objective, which is to create a happy reader. If it doesn't, you have to let it go. Cut all the crap out and only let the gold shine from your work.
Stephen King nailed it. If you are not getting enough ideas or are in the throes of the so-called writer’s block, you're probably not reading enough. Studies have revealed that reading is great for your mind and makes you an imaginative person. You'll never have a dearth of ideas if you're a voracious reader.
The more books you read, the more adventures you've had. From heroes to villains, you've lived a million lives.
"I am not a professional writer, therefore, my writing sucks."
Sound familiar? Writing is one of those skills that people get a little insecure about. Letting people read your words can leave you feeling anxious, touchy, and super-vulnerable. No matter what the subject matter is, there will be people who just don’t feel comfortable writing for the public’s consumption.
Get out of this mindset, once and for all. Give yourself permission to suck. No one has to see your work until you decide it's ready. Get that shitty first draft out of the way so you can start to sculpt it into something that resembles quality work.
Sometimes, the blank piece of paper is going to win.
No sense in continually banging your head into a brick wall. If it's not happening one day, it doesn't mean you're a failure. Step away. Go for a walk. Spend time with your family. Live your life.
Tomorrow will be a new day.
If you can be misread, you will be.
You will be trolled, demoralized and ridiculed umpteen times. But that's OK.
We are 7 billion people in this world and 7 billion people may have 70 billion perceptions. You cannot please everybody. Accept it and move on.
However, learn from the critics and incorporate the good points with a positive mindset. Burn your flaws, not your passion.
Success as a writer is a saga of persistence, perseverance and continuous improvement. As a writer, you should always be like a sponge, ever absorbing tidbits of knowledge from everything and everybody, that helps you in your endeavor to succeed as a top writer.
And lastly, as said by the great Lev Grossman:
Do your own thing. Learn, practice and master the rules first. But those who break the "rules" successfully are the true artists.