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Advice to Writers

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 17, 2013 by dcmclaughlin

A well-known author once told aspiring young wordsmiths that in order to be a good writer, one must write everyday. Unfortunately his or her advice, although certainly well intentioned, does not fit into every writer’s daily schedule. Such advice leaves me with the impression that the advisor lives in an apartment, does not own a car, does not have a significant other, does not have a ‘normal’ nine to five job and does not have children. They do not have to deal with mowing the lawn, keeping up repairs with the house and the family vehicle, do not have to deal with problems with the boss or co-workers or their romantic partner or their children’s hectic schedule that most ordinary people have to deal with everyday.

It certainly leaves me out in the cold. I aspire to writing everyday but most days it simply does not happen. I may not have children but I do have a husband, a job, a farm to run and critters to care for. Some days it seems I am mostly a janitor, a maid and an animal chef. With my schedule it’s amazing that I ever managed to sit down and take the time to knit more than a few basic words together let alone finish several novels on my own. (Maybe that’s why my house is less than spotless.) Sometimes I have to make an appointment with myself to write. I’ve even spent my week paid vacation from work staying home and sitting on the computer, editing one of my finished stories instead of gallivanting around the world on a fabulous adventure somewhere away from home like normal people do.

I do this because this is the life that I’ve chosen for myself, both the farm with all its critters that require feeding and daily care and the writing. They are my peace and my literary inspiration. I cannot choose one and live without the other. I do not enjoy the prospect that going a little cuckoo from such a choice might earn me. If you are a writer, you might be able to relate.

It took me a while to figure out this tiny bit of very important wisdom about myself. When I was an adolescent, I wrote and drew pictures like a madman, like my time was short. A good weekend for me was spent home either writing or drawing or dreaming up adventures in my own fantasy world I created in my own head.

Then at twenty-one I married and tried to settle into a ‘normal’ life like just any other married woman. It didn’t work. First thing that happened was my writing died a tortuous, painful death. The worst thing was I wasn’t even aware it was happening. For seven years I either didn’t write or when I did, it was disastrous. I knew the whole story in my head. But I kept writing myself into corners my characters couldn’t get out of. I never finished anything I wrote. My stories were colorless and hopeless.

I had no idea that this was a reflection of my life. I must be in a very good place to write and I wasn’t. So it just didn’t happen. For seven years it didn’t happen, no stories, no dreams, and no magical words. My writer’s mind was impotent, dry and cracked as an evaporated riverbed. I wasn’t happy equals no writing for me.

Then I got divorced. I tentatively began to dream and write again. I got remarried, this time to a man who fell in love with me for the words I penned. The words began to flow again, first a trickle and then a flood. My creative urge to write was reborn like the phoenix, spreading its fiery wings across a beautiful, brand new world. My words were different, more mature, better. Gone was the glitter and stardust of my earlier tales replaced by stories with darker, grittier more realistically believable characters. And the stories were actually getting finished this time.

I guess I better keep this guy around for the long haul.

So for all those would be writers and authors, dreamers and storytellers here is my advice to you:

Live!

This may be confusing to some of you. After all I didn’t say anything that had anything to do with a pen and paper or a keyboard.

Or did I?

I said you are to live just that and nothing more. Go out and have a life. Socialize with people. Make friendships, laugh and fight with your friends make up and mature. Laugh until you cry and your sides hurt, cry until your heart breaks. Fall in like with someone, fall in love, fall in lust. Whee! So much fun! Then get over it and move on. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t repeat the same ones. Experience every facet life has to offer you.

And through all this living you experience, write down your experiences. No, I’m not saying to keep a journal or a diary. Just write down every emotional experience you encounter; write about your joys, your sorrows, your pain, your triumphs. Write about how you’ve learned through these experiences, how it’s changed your perspective on this or that topic, how you’ve matured as a person through having these experiences. Just living life will improve your writing, give it depth and meaning, substance and power. Your words will transform from one-dimensional to many faceted. Life will tweak your words and you will become a person, not a fictional character in your own story.

As to whether you want to keep these words private or expose them to the whole world, that is up to you to decide. Being an open book can have its consequences. Maybe baring your heart to the world might or might not be the wisest thing to do depending on the situation. The alternative is to channel those feelings of hope and despair, happiness and longing and everything else in between, into the words, thoughts and mannerisms of a character. This can be a very safe and cathartic way of dealing with the myriad of experiences that life throws your way. Writing a story can almost be like therapy. It keeps the writer from ‘going postal’ so to say.

If you experience life in all its many colors and angles, so will your characters. This will give realism to your story and believability to the characters in your tale. Therefore the reader will be more apt to bond with the characters you create and become emotionally invested in the journey they go through.

In other words it will keep the readers turning the pages of your tale. And we all want that right? I certainly do.

We, as writers, need to hang a really big carrot in front of the noses of our readers. And we want to make that carrot as tempting as humanly possible.

If your reader doesn’t like carrots…well that’s a whole different discussion!

 

D.C. McLaughlin

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