“You know, I’ve always wanted to be a brain surgeon.” This puzzles most people.
The message behind the humor is simple: If you want to write, then write. It worked for Stephen King. It works for me as well. Whether I’m successful at it or not is yet to be determined, but I’m already pleased at how my writing has developed from when I first began until now. ‘The master’ went on to say that, unlike brain surgery, the only way to learn to write is by writing.
There are other ways, too, in my humble opinion. Reading, for example, is a must as far as I’m concerned. Another way to improve your writing is by taking a writing course. My good friend, Rob Parnell (aka ‘the writing guru’), has many on-line writing courses catering to almost every genre of writing out there.
See more at: http://easywaytowrite.com
But in the end, it all comes back to writing. As much as you read, and as many courses as you take, you still need to write in order to become a better writer. The question is, ‘why write?’ I think that is something that one is innately motivated to do. Painters paint pictures, musicians compose and play, actors act; writers write. Some people want to tell their story through dialogue or music, or maybe even via photography, and don’t feel the need to write it down; however, for others – it’s all they want to do. I’m one of those people. I want to write.
If you experience the same inclination and passion to write, the next question is, ‘what do you write about?’ When I asked that question of other writers, I was often told, ‘write what you know’. That’s a great place to start. It doesn’t have to be about yourself or your life story, but it might be based on your experiences, the town or country in which you live, or the issues you are dealing with in your life. If you don’t find anything inspirational in that, there’s always your imagination. Think about the things that got you excited as a child, whether it be adventure stories or superheroes, and go with that. Often, a great idea for a story can start with, ‘what if…?’ What would you do if civilization, as we know it, ended tomorrow? What if you and the person you desired most were the only survivors of a plane crash on a tropical island?
When and where does one write? Write whenever you can and wherever feels right. Some people like to talk about ‘being in the zone’ and that’s a legitimate issue, but it can also be used as an excuse to be lazy or to procrastinate. There have been times when I have experienced ‘writers block’ or simply lacked motivation to write. I cure writer’s block by writing – anything. I’ll write e-mail to someone, or I’ll write down some ideas for a poem or another storyline. Before long, I feel motivated again to return to my current novel or whatever it is I’m working on.
A hangover, however, will completely destroy any plans I may have had to work on my book. I won’t feel in the mood for writing poetry if I am angry about something. Other times I am just feeling slack and will be tempted to watch a movie or waste some time surfing the Internet. A writer, especially a work-at-home writer, must develop some self-discipline in order to remain productive.
Deciding on a daily writing time can be helpful, and making a habit of writing at the same time each day will make it easier in the long run. The mind and body eventually fall into a rhythm and the writing juices start flowing automatically. I find that I am often weary after lunch, and so I try to always get my writing done in the morning. Usually though, I tend to work through until two or three o’clock in the afternoon. Then I take a break and look at the news on the Internet or look at what’s new on Facebook. The evenings can be a great time for writing, too, and some people naturally feel more inspired at night. Personally I find that after the initial enthusiasm, often inspired by a book or movie, I tend to run out of steam fairly quickly. Adopting the same sleeping time as your partner, of course, can also be very beneficial for your personal relationship – another factor to consider.
Setting aside a special place for writing can help you to ‘get in the zone’, as well. It might be a writing den, if one is available, or a desk in the corner. However, I have found that it must be a place with no distractions. Luckily, I live in a rural mountain village in Japan. During the day, when I sit at my computer, I hear no noise outside whatsoever. If I were in the city though, I would no doubt find the noise of traffic and people quite distracting. Sometimes I prefer total silence, whereas occasionally I like to have some background music to help set the mood. However, it must be music without lyrics as they naturally clash with the words in my head. How can you possibly focus on the correct word for a sentence if there are a hundred other words assailing your ears from the stereo speakers or headphones?
If I am writing a scene set in World War Two, I don’t want to hear Lady Gaga belting out her latest song. Likewise, if my story is set in Japan, then I don’t want to hear Bruce Springsteen singing, ‘Born in the USA’. As a writer, I am totally absorbed in the time and the place in which my story is taking place. I feel as if I am there. It is a total escape from reality, and my enjoyment of such takes me back to the initial question: ‘why write?’ I love the adventures my imagination takes me on, and the characters are the people I meet on the way. I feel as if I know them intimately. Hopefully, in the near future, you will meet them, too.
I look forward to sharing that journey with you.
ⓒ Chris Ryall 2013