Friday, 23 May 2014

How to Think Like a Writer

To anyone who ever said writing was easy . . . {blowing rasperries!} If it's so easy, you try it.

For those of use who make our livings doing some form of writing -- creative writing, poetry, journalism, etc . . . we must engage in some practices others don't readily understand.

Read. A lot!

Read a lot. Read everything. Read outside your comfort zone, especially when you feel blocked. You're not looking to copy anyone else or to try emulating their success. Reading opens creative channels in your brain. Reading stimulates the imagination, as new ideas ping and clash into each other until you see a clear path in your own work. Reading classics is a great way to see how some of the greats because 'the greats'. You'll not only read some amazing stories, but also see how literature has changed over the decades, and how your work is part of that change. And you'll also see what's in those books that makes them classics today. Learn from the greats and maybe your work will be classic one day. So read.

Be observant

Watch things. Watch everything. Watch people, animals, nature . . . Take in emotions, scents and taste, sounds, and touch everything. Okay, maybe not touch everything. You don't want to get arrested! But use all of your senses (and there are six of them -- touch, taste, sights, sound, hearing, and intuition), as well as some you may not know about or understand. Essentially, people-watch and go inside yourself as you do. Awaken an emotion and ask yourself how it's affecting you personally. Find words to describe it. By doing so, you'll find ways to incorporate those things into your work. So observe.


Go inside yourself. Let your mind wander. Try taking yourself to that place between sleep and wakefulness, where your subconscience and reality blend, where you're susceptible to suggestion and influence, where your creative side can soak up your dreams and weave them into a rich tapestry through your written word. Allow yourself to stare out a window and only see what's in your mind's eye. Turn on some music and drift into the world created by the melody and lyrics, being observant of the emotions it inspires. Allow yourself to drift.

Only you know it

You've heard the age old saying: Write what you know. This goes beyond researching a new topic and 'knowing about it.' If you're an adult, you've had a certain number of experiences that have increased your knowledge without really knowing you have. These are things you can draw on in your writing. Chances are good you've lost a love one, or beloved pet, and have suffered the pain of loss. Draw on those feelings. Chances are good you've been in love -- first love, first date, first kiss, first time you made love . . . Draw on those firsts. Draw from the good and not-so-good in your life to enrich your writing. Only you know what it felt like for you in certain experiences. Write what you know. It's in the palm of your hand.

Stop juggling

Make writing and writing tasks the priority in your life. Okay, I hear you saying: 'What about the kids? My spouse? The dogs? Who's going to vacuum the floor or wash the dishes or cook dinner?' If you set aside time to write, when those around you know this is your writing time, you can make writing a priority. Stop trying to juggle it all to fit in writing. Enlist in help if needs be. And remember, the world won't end if you put off the vacuuming and dish-washing for a couple hours. Making writing a priority in life doesn't mean giving up or pushing off everything so you can write. It means finding ways to fit writing into your day rather than making excuses why you can't write. Be a writer by prioritizing. Don't be an excuse-maker.

Find ways to inspire your writing. Visit an art gallery, go to a concert, hike in the mountains, or walk in the park. Get out and feed your mind. More so than daydreaming and gaining knowledge, getting inspired is a conscious effort to feed your mind with everything from interacting with people from different cultures, to eating different foods that wake up your tastebuds, to listening to different music than you normally prefer, to challenging yourself personally -- try skydiving! Find ways to fill your life with things that make you sigh or gasp, make your heart pound a little harder, make you exclaim: 'Damn, that's cool!' Get inspired.

Man, this is hard!

Keep your wits about. While writing can take you, in your mind, through fantastical places, there is a reality to the craft. You must treat writing like a business. Writing is your job. As a job, certain responsibilities come with it, like promotion and marketing. Your stories may seem to come from no where, as if your muse has given you some amazing gift. Perhaps he/she has. But there is a real side to the business. Writing is hard work. It's not for the faint of heart. Either write for you because you love it, or write for a business because you love it. The reality is, no matter which you decide, 99% of us won't get rich doing it. Some of us will do well, some will just get by, some will probably never see our work published. Be realistic of your expectations and what's expected of you. Go into the business with your eyes wide open. And never compromise who you are as a writer or how you see yourself in your craft. In everything, be real.


If you're feeling 'writer's block' remember one important thing -- There is no such thing as Writer's Block. If you've stumbled in your work and can't find a way forward, you've missed the above advice. Unblock yourself by using the writer's sledge hammer -- see above! Knock those blocks!!

You are your only competition

Look around you to determine who is your competition. Competition 101: YOU are your only competition. Stop comparing your work to others. As above, only you have had certain life experiences. Equally, only you interpret what life throws at you in different ways as everyone else. You are unique in every way, just as your mother told you long ago. It's time to remember this. And in your uniqueness, your only competition is you. Challenge yourself in different ways, but never pit yourself in a competition against someone else's work, or their work habits. Be unique, but don't compete.

Get a hobby

Make time for you. In today's life, we're always pulled every which way. From the 'day job' to family, from friends to social obligations, from kids to pets, and everything in between. With all of our life responsibilities, we most often forget that the #1 thing we're responsible for is ourself. We all need 'me time.' That's wholly different from the above (prioritize). 'Me time' is doing things outside of writing that keep you emotionally and physically healthy. This means find another hobby. Writing is your job, not your hobby. Paint or draw, play the guitar, learn to run, get a dog and teach it some tricks. Whatever you do, take time for YOU!
Be Nike


Stop making excuses. Just do it.


Take joy in writing. If it's not fun, why do it?

Take joy in writing