While cleaning out the papers in my office, I came across a notation I’d made in 2009:
Writer’s Tool Belt
All these will light the way to success!
Truer words were never written. As much as we may want things to be exciting and glamorous in the writing world every single day, it just isn’t possible. In fact, it’s probably not even desirable. As writers we need our “down” time as much as “up” time to achieve a good balance in our articles and stories.
Here’s my take on the tools:
My purpose is to write the best I possibly can, even on the days where I’d rather run away (fast!) than sit in my chair and pick up my pen or plant myself in front of my laptop and begin to type. The reality is-if I’m going to call myself a writer then I have to write. There is absolutely no way around it.
I also need to be prepared to write every day by keeping a folder of ideas and all the office supplies I need in stock, buying the latest craft books, and regularly attending writer’s conferences. Whoever heard of a chef that never prepared a meal, didn’t have a single cookbook, forgot to shop for ingredients, and didn’t buy the kitchen implements and gadgets he/she needed to cook with? Ridiculous, right?
I am not the most patient person, but with my writing I need to force myself to be. I don’t know about other writers, but sometimes I put so much time, effort, and emotional energy into a particular story or article that one morning I wake up with a burning compulsion to just get the piece out of my sight and off my plate. ”That’s it! I’m done!” I proclaim to Murphy (my writing dog) and I decisively hit “send”. And every single time I regret it. I always find one or two mistakes that I probably could have caught if I had just been more patient.
Another place I have trouble being patient is while I’m waiting for a story, article, or poem to take shape in my mind or imagination. I’ve learned the hard way that, if you try to write something before you are fully aware of the direction you want to go in, the point you want to make, or the angle you’d like to pursue, the writing will almost always be horrible, maudlin, or just plain boring. I start thinking about specific ideas or topics every day, considering possibilities, turning things around in my mind. When it’s ready, the idea will suddenly pop out, ready to move forward. To continue the cooking analogy above, writing a piece of fiction or nonfiction is like taking a cake out of the oven. Too soon and it will collapse or be a gooey mess. So, bide your time!
I believe every writer should be passionate about the people, places, and events they write about and about learning new things every single day. If you don’t think you can sustain this level of passion, maybe writing isn’t the career for you. Enough said!
Persistence is hard. There are some days when it is not fun to be a writer. Everything and everyone conspires against you from the empty mailbox/Inbox (except for junk mail and bills) to family members who keep breaking your concentration. You have a lengthy “to do” list that, by the end of the day, you’ve managed to complete only one-third of, leaving you frustrated and feeling like a failure. This is when you need to flip it and say to yourself, “Look what I did get done, despite everything. Everyone has a bad day sometimes. I am a good writer. Tomorrow will be better.” Then pour yourself a glass of wine, pick up a good book, and let it go.