Writing isn’t all about the craft. The craft is important yes, but so is the groundwork you lay in order to practice the craft of writing to its fullest extent.
There are things you can do before you start to write that will make a big difference to how you write once you actually begin.
It’s about the laying the proper groundwork so you can write at your fullest potential.
Read on to find out how you can give yourself the best chance of producing great work.
1. Find A Permanent Writing Space.
Recently I got a text from a friend who is just starting out on their writing journey. My friend said in the text that he was sitting in the local library trying to write, but that he kept getting distracted by the noise from the road work’s going on just outside the building. As a consequence, he couldn’t concentrate and therefore couldn’t write either.
That little anecdote does a great job of highlighting the need for a good writing environment. If you insist on trying to write in places where there is lots of noise or potential for myriad distractions, you are setting yourself up for failure before you even begin.
A lot of writers insist on trying to write from home. This could work if you lived alone, but very few of us live alone. Most of us have families or people that we live with whom, despite their best intentions, just won’t ever shut the fuck up or leave you alone for more than five minutes.
Aside from murdering those people and stashing their bodies in the bins outside, there isn’t much you can do about it. It’s alright saying to people you live with that you need peace and quiet to write, but try telling that to an eighteen month old baby who insists on throwing toys at your head and screaming like a raving banshee for no apparent reason other than to annoy you.
The people you live with still have to live themselves. You can’t expect them to drop everything for your selfish needs, now can you?
One solution to this problem is to lock yourself away in a different room, but it’s only a matter of time before someone comes a knocking “just to see how you’re doing” or to demand that you help with the kids downstairs, which by the way, are audible all the time even in the room you are in.
Then there’s the other distractions. The constant checking in online to your various social media accounts and email, the ordering of that new DVD special edition you’ve been meaning to get for weeks now, the browsing of blogs in the name of research etc. etc.
Then the phone rings and you stop to have a talk with someone. Five minutes after that you get a text from a friend asking if you watched The Walking Dead last night so you have a text discussion about that for the next twenty minutes.
Pretty soon you look at the clock and hours have passed. You’ve got nothing done. Again.
My advice? Get yourself an outside writing space. I mean somewhere that is away from home.
I realize that may not be feasible for a lot of people. It costs money to rent office space, after all.
I’m lucky because I own a small martial arts studio not far from my home. I spend all day in there writing, undisturbed. Its bliss and I get a shitload done.
In fact, taking my writing activities elsewhere was the best decision I ever made as writer. I have a permanent, distraction free writing space now.
That’s what you need if you want to be a professional. Having such a space will do wonders for your output in terms of both quality and quantity.
Do your best with what you have, but as soon as it’s feasible for you, invest in a proper space in which to write.
This, more than anything else, will improve your writing no end. Trust me on that.
2. Start Acting Like A Professional
A professional writer does not get up in the morning and wonder if they should write that day. A professional writer will get up in the morning knowing they will write that day.
That’s the difference between professionals and amateurs. Professionals know what they have to do and they do it. Amateurs aren’t even sure what they have to do and rarely do it.
Be a professional, not an amateur. Professionals produce good work on a consistent basis. Amateurs produce mostly mediocre work on an inconsistent basis.
How do you become more professional in your approach to writing?
Think and act like a professional for a start. Believe that you are a professional. Brainwash yourself, even if you don’t believe it yet.
That’s not enough however. I sometimes believe that I’m the best damn cook to ever grace a kitchen, but I very rarely hang around the kitchen except to wash up after the family has eaten. Just thinking I’m a terrific chef doesn’t make me a professional one by any means.
If you want to be a professional writer, you must write, because that’s what professionals do. They write. All the time. Every day. Sometimes several times a day. Sometimes well into the evening and the small hours as well.
Amateurs don’t seem to get that. I never used to get that to be a writer you had to actually write. I used to revel in the self-delusion that I could be a writer without doing much writing, without putting in the time and effort to learn the craft.
Like all amateurs, I thought I would wake up one day with this great idea for a book and I would just write it, no problem, and it would be a raging success and I’d be sorted for life.
That didn’t happen. It used to piss me off that it didn’t happen. As an amateur I bemoaned the fact that it was easy for all those “successful” writers (it must be!), so why not me? Why did I have to struggle?
Of course, it isn’t easy for all other writers. I realized this eventually, when I woke up and munched my cornflakes.
It came to me in a blinding flash of insight: All writers struggle but they keep writing anyway.
Deep huh? I don’t know how it took me so many years to see that blindly obvious fact, that if I wanted to be good I would have to work at it like every other writer.
Aahhhh…but that means work and lots of it. Boooo…we don’t like work, do we? We avoid work at all costs, don’t we? Why can’t an angel come down and just bestow upon us the gift of writing well without having to do anything else?
Oh well. Since angels are obviously selfish bastards, there’s only one thing for it. Sigh. Work it is then.
You want to be a good writer? Put in the goddamn work or don’t bother kidding yourself anymore. Go do something else, like review porn movies for a living. It’s less work and you still get to put your hands to good use (your right one anyway).
3. Learn To Trust Your Subconscious
Where do you think all those words come from anyway? The angels certainly aren’t feeding them to you. No. Those words come from your subconscious, your best friend as a writer.
Without the proper help and guidance from your subconscious, your writing will be labored, flat, workman-like and devoid of life. It will suck, in other words. Your writing will suck big fat donkey balls.
You need the help of your subconscious to inject life and flow into your writing. That’s why it’s imperative that you begin to build a relationship with your subconscious.
But how do you do that? It’s not like you can just ask it out for drinks, is it?
Start by acknowledging its existence. Think of your subconscious, not as a person, but as a creative entity that lives inside your head. Imbue it with awe and mystery if you want to, if that helps stoke the artist in you.
Either way, acknowledge its presence and start listening to it. Your subconscious won’t speak to you as such, not like a real person. You can’t ask it if it watched The Walking Dead last night. You can’t ask it what it thinks of all the rain we’ve been getting lately.
Your subconscious communicates differently. It suggests stuff to you. It guides you in certain directions. It throws out ideas into your conscious mind, ideas that you should make a habit of acknowledging instead of letting them float by unnoticed.
Pretty quickly, once your subconscious sees that you are listening, it will step things up and soon begin to control most of your creative output. Allow this to happen.
When you sit down to write, you should do so in the knowledge that your subconscious will know what to do once you start. It’s already given you different ideas. Pick one of those ideas and then sit down to write it out. Let the words flow as if they are coming straight from your subconscious (which they are).
Now, if I’d have read what I’d just written when I was still an amateur (someone who didn’t write very much), I’d have dismissed such ideas as wishy-washy nonsense.
But that’s because, back then, I didn’t write enough to know any better. I never gave my subconscious a chance to get involved.
Your subconscious will only truly get involved when it sees that you are making the effort to be professional and sit down to write every day. Once it sees that you are doing that, it will come to the fore and begin to help you each time you sit down to write.
You must write in order to establish that connection and you must keep writing to maintain that connection. Stop writing even for a short period and that connection will weaken and eventually fade away all together, and then you’ll have to start all over again.
If you don’t write enough you will not have a clue what I’m going on about here. Start writing every day, make an effort to establish a connection with your subconscious, learn to trust what it tells you and then get back to me and tell me I’m right.
Take Massive Action Motherfucker!
So that’s three ways to improve your writing before you even begin. You’ll notice they aren’t particularly easy ways. They require a bit of work and dedication on your part.
I’d say what I just described represents most of the difficulty when it comes to writing. The actual process of writing itself is easy enough once you get going and dedicate yourself to it.
The point is you can’t learn until you give yourself the best chance to learn. Don’t hobble yourself before you even begin and then cry that writing is soooo hard and you never get anywhere with it.
I used to think writing was hard. It isn’t.
Writing is fairly easy after a while. By far the hardest part of writing is committing to it and getting yourself into a regular routine where you actually do some writing.
Starting and stopping all the time is not the way to go.
Writing is like flying a plane. It takes a lot of effort to take off and land all the time. It takes much less effort to keep the plane in the air so it cruises along nicely.
Get in the air and start cruising or eventually you’ll crash and never come back from it.