This week, Linen Press author Avril Joy shares her thoughts on the bad habits that writers pick up, and why you should ditch them.
10 things we should stop doing as writers
Here are 10 things we should stop doing as writers, especially if we want to reach our true creative potential and enjoy what we do. I confess I’ve done them all.
1. Doubting ourselves – some doubt can be good, the kind of doubt that asks is this chapter working, can I improve it, does the writing flow, will my character come alive for the reader etc? This kind of doubt helps us to become better writers.The doubt I’m referring to is that crippling, ‘I’m no good,’ ‘this is hopeless,’ kind of doubt, the kind that stops us writing in the first place. I think most of us experience doubt like this from time to time and it’s tricky to deal with but when I experience it I ask myself what’s the bottom line? Am I prepared to give up this thing I love called writing? The answer always comes back no and so there is nothing for it but to carry on.
2. Comparing ourselves to fellow writers – it’s easy to look at other writers, especially if they are gaining recognition or success, and compare ourselves to them. Envy creeps in, we end up either trying to find fault with their writing or finding fault with ourselves. Either way this is no good for our writing. When I feel like this I try to accept and acknowledge my feelings, after all it’s pointless denying them, and then I find something really good, something genuine, to say about my fellow writer. And then I write on.
3. Worrying about the market – you can worry and think all day about what’s selling right now, about what agents and editors are looking for, about what will be the next big trend but this won’t improve your writing. My experience of trying to write for agents and changing things for potential publishers led me away from what I loved doing into a world of angst and second guessing and ultimately rejection.
4. Complaining – we all like to complain sometimes about how difficult the world of publishing is. But it’s a mistake to get mired in this world of complaining. Complaining breeds negativity, wallowing in negativity is not in the least creative and will do nothing for our writing.
5. Too much tea and coffee – drinking too much tea and coffee, especially when we’re at the computer is not good for us, we should be drinking water instead. Seriously, it helps a lot to have a big glass of water to hand and to replenish it frequently. Your brain needs water.
6. Not reading – I often hear writers say they’re too busy writing to read. But reading is fuel to our fiction and we must read and we should read contemporary fiction at least some of the time else we risk becoming isolated and out of touch, out of fuel and too absorbed in our own writing world.
7. Wasting time on social media when we should be writing – I’ve done it, we’ve all done it, spent precious time trawling through Twitter or Facebook, Pinterest etc. instead of getting down to work. I like to remind myself that an hour of writing makes me feel so much better than an hour on Twitter.
8. Giving up – all the best writers suffer rejection, for some the rejections run into double figures but nonetheless they persist. So while we are busy writing the next thing, we should still persist in our attempts to find an agent, or a home for our latest story, a publisher for our novel. Take Eimear Mc Bride: McBride wrote A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, in just six months, but it took nine years to get it published. When it was it won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.
9. Working in isolation – writing is a solitary activity but there are great benefits from going out into the world and working with others. If we only spend time in our ivory towers we fall out of touch with people, with life and the world we are writing about. Out there in the world so many ideas lie in waiting, so many other creative people exist, whose ideas can enrich and inspire ours. Taking a poetry workshop with established poets – well outside my comfort zone – led me to a new place in my writing and directly to the success of my story Millie and Bird.
10. Taking life so seriously – I know I’m guilty of this. I’m a very serious person and I think writers often are but I know it’s important sometimes not to take ourselves and what we do too seriously. It’s important to have fun, to live as well as just write. Living life enhances the writing. So, go out, shop, dance, sing, fall in love, eat cake, drink wine, share what you’ve learned, help other writers, find the wildest, comfiest or weirdest place to write. Get away from the machine, buy a notebook and pen sit in cafes or bars, take a holiday, observe the world through dark glasses and whatever you do WRITE.