Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter, and game designer, and owns an awesome blog with some great advice for writers. Most great advice hurts, and his is no exception.
Number one. Stop aspiring!
Here are the two states in which you may exist: person who writes, or person who does not. If you write: you are a writer. If you do not write: you are not. Aspiring is a meaningless null state that romanticizes Not Writing. It’s as ludicrous as saying, “I aspire to pick up that piece of paper that fell on the floor.” Either pick it up or don’t. I don’t want to hear about how your diaper’s full. Take it off or stop talking about it.
Here are some more of my favorite tidbits:
7. FIGURE OUT HOW YOU WRITE, THEN DO THAT
You learn early on how to write. But for most authors it takes a long time to learn how they in particular write. Certain processes, styles, genres, character types, POVs, tenses, whatever — they will come more naturally to you than they do to others. And some won’t come naturally at all. Maybe you’ll figure this out right out of the gate. But for most, it just takes time — time filled with actual writing — to tease it out.
8. FINISH YOUR SHIT
I’m just going to type this out a dozen times so it’s clear: finish your shit. Finish your shit. Finish your shit. Finish your shit. Finish your shit. Finish your shit! FINISH YOUR SHIT. Finish. Your. Shit. Fiiiiniiiish yooooour shiiiiit. COMPLETO EL POOPO. Vervollständigen Sie Ihre Fäkalien! Finish your shit.
9. YOU NEED TO LEARN THE RULES. . .
…in order to know when they must be broken.
10. YOU NEED TO BREAK THE RULES. . .
… in order to know why they matter.
11. WHAT I MEAN BY RULES IS–
Writing is a technical skill. A craft. You can argue that storytelling is an art. You can argue that art emerges from good writing the way a dolphin riding a jet-ski emerges the longer you stare at a Magic Eye painting. But don’t get ahead of yourself, hoss. You still need to know how to communicate. You need to learn the laws of this maddening land. I’ve seen too many authors want to jump ahead of the skill and just start telling stories — you ever try to get ahead of your own skill level? I used to imagine pictures in my head and I’d try to paint them in watercolor and they’d end up looking like someone barfed up watery yogurt onto the canvas. I’d rail against this: WHY DON’T THEY LOOK BEAUTIFUL? Uhh, because you don’t know how to actually paint, dumb-fuck. You cannot exert your talent unless you first have the skill to bolster that talent.
13. READING DOES NOT MAKE YOU A WRITER
That’s the old piece of advice, isn’t it? “All you need to do is read and write to be a writer.” You don’t learn to write through reading anymore than you learn carpentry by sitting on a chair. You learn to write by writing. And, when you do read something, you learn from it by dissecting it — what is the author doing? How are characters and plot drawn together? You must read critically— that is the key.
20. YOUR JEALOUSY AND DEPRESSION DO NOT MATTER
All writers get down on themselves. It’s in our wheelhouse. We see other writers being successful and at first we’re all like, “Yay, good for that person!” but then ten minutes later we get this sniper’s bullet of envy and this poison feeling shoots through the center of our brain like a railroad spike: BUT WHY NOT ME? And then we go take a bath with a toaster. Fuck that. Those feelings don’t matter. They don’t help you. They may be normal, they may be natural, but they’re not useful and they’re certainly not interesting.
Read his full blog post, and pick and decide what you think works for you. After all…
4. WE ALL BOOBY-TRAP THE JUNGLE BEHIND US
There exists no one way toward becoming a professional writer. You cannot perfectly walk another’s journey. That’s why writing advice is just that — it’s advice. It’s mere suggestion. Might work. Might not. Lots of good ideas out there, but none of it is gospel. One person will tell you this is the path. Another will point the other way and say that is the path. They’re both right for themselves, and they’re both probably wrong for you. We all chart our own course and burn the map afterward. It’s just how it is. If you want to find the way forward, then stop looking for maps and start walking.
Happy (and sometimes not-so-happy, but certainly worth it) writing!