If you’ve ever spent any time around other writers, you’re likely used to having their ideas of what a successful writer does, thrown in your face. (yes, this is what I do with my blog, BUT you’re here by choice!) Since you’ve come here of your own free will, I figured it’s time to throw a few of the DON’Ts at you. None of these tips are going to be easy. Many of the behaviors I’m going to ask you to avoid are long ingrained and well-practiced in our daily lives, but hopefully with a little attention and awareness to illuminate them, positive steps can be made to counter their hold on your writing.
Don’t Punish Yourself – So, you didn’t reach your word goal for the day/week/month? Your latest short story hasn’t garnered the attention you thought it deserves? These are NOT good reasons to punish yourself. Whether your methods of punishment are mental, emotional or physical, they all have one thing in common…They push us to feel hopeless, discouraged and almost always result in worse quality work. Instead of doling out punishments, give yourself positive rewards. Pat yourself on the back for accomplishing what you were able to, and take each step as a learning experience.
Don’t Write Like Your Favorites – Sure, everyone tells you that to be a good writer you have to read a lot. I don’t always agree with this, but I do practice it myself. To all you avid readers out there…STOP trying to be your favorite authors. Stop trying to be Hemingway. Stop trying to be Stephen King, Anne Rice or James Paterson, and for Pete’s sake, STOP TRYING TO BE J.K. Rowling. Nobody wants to buy a sub-par, not Harry Potter novel. I’m not saying your writing won’t be good, but if you even come close to emulating your favorite author, that is all you’ll actually be doing, emulating. It’s one thing to read the works of your favorite authors and those who have mastered the genres they work in, but as a writer, you should be working to develop YOUR OWN VOICE. Trying to sell me your story in Stephen King’s narrative voice will only serve to make you forgettable.
Don’t Get Mad At Criticism – I used to hate, so unbelievably passionately, any criticism made about something I’ve written. “Who the hell is this person to tell me that my protagonist isn’t motivated enough? I wrote it, he’s as motivated as I think he needs to be…” It wasn’t until I started getting involved in fiction workshops, that I realized how detrimental to your work, this anger and ignorance of criticism can be. To put it simply, in 99% of cases, you are NOT writing for you. Stories are written to be shared. If someone reading your story isn’t picking up what you’re putting down, something is wrong. Authors naturally have a tendency to get very close to their stories, and in so doing, lose sight of the fact that the reader is not privy to their thought processes, unless it’s on the page. Get excited for criticism. Always take a critique as a learning experience and grow from it. Adapt and work your stories into something greater if you feel the critics commentary is warranted. Join workshops, writing groups and share your draft work with others. BONUS TIP: Don’t immediately cripple your efforts to improve yourself as an author by looking at the previous tips and giving them the ol’ “easier said than done” routine. Actively pushing yourself to eliminate some of the behaviors that only serve to pull your creativity and motivation a step backwards, takes time, but is ALWAYS rewarding in the end. Set small goals, achieve them and write happier! Of course, like most advice, some of this is subjective. You should always do what you know works for you. If a little self-punishment gets you the results you’re looking for, that’s great.However, do yourself a favor and take the time to step back and look at your behaviors. You’d be surprised where you can tighten up your process and make a noticeable difference in the finished product. Write on Writers! Stay tuned for Part 2 with more Things Writers Shouldn’t Do.