There’s nothing I’ve ever wanted to do but to be a writer. Even so, it’s taken me years to learn one of the most essential tools for any writer: discipline. Sitting down every day and putting words to paper isn’t easy. Not when there are about a hundred and one other things that need to be done or could be more entertaining. Not when there’s the internet at our fingertips just begging us to click and read the latest celebrity gossip or news article. Not when our friends are posting about their lives – we don’t want to miss that, because what kind of friends would we be? Once you’re sitting down and typing, it takes time to get into the flow and it’s easy to make excuses. Then there are the plot twists that make you crazy and middles – middles are hard. And the endings. Endings should be easy, but there’s so much riding on a good ending and the pressure . . . oh, the pressure. It’s tempting to give up.
But you can’t give up, because at the end of the day what separates writers from non-writers with a dream is who gave up and who kept going. Time and time again, I’ve read that if you just keep going, just keep writing, just keep honing your craft, you will make it as a writer. You don’t have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun the person next to you. I don’t know if this is true, but I do know that if you give up at writing, or any other dream you might have, you will definitely never succeed. Here are the things I’ve found to be my most helpful motivators.
- Have a cheerleader
My husband is my biggest supporter and he never lets me slack off. Not because he’s mean or pushy, but because he knows how important this is to me and he understands and supports my goals. Self-discipline is important, but having someone to answer to can make a huge difference.
- Set goals and Prioritize
You can’t get anywhere if you don’t know where you’re going. I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I’ve always understood that I would have a very hard road to any sort of success. Very early on, I established a simple goal: I wanted to publish a book and I wanted one person to read that book and enjoy it. I wanted my book to lighten the mood, the day, the load of one person. I figured that was a somewhat achievable goal. When I got my first good review from someone who wasn’t friend or family, I decided I’d reached that goal and I set new goals. What is your goal?
Writing a novel takes time and it takes hard work, so you need to have daily goals as well. When I’m writing, I have a daily word count goal. Sometimes that goal is easy to reach and other times I’m exhausted or in a bad mood and that goal feels like climbing Mt. Everest, but I plug on and I meet that goal every day. Meeting that goal means giving up other things I might enjoy or that suck time. I don’t watch T.V. any more and I rarely watch movies, because my writing goals come first.
- Don’t let the naysayers get you down
There will always be people who think you’re wasting your time or that your goal is too unrealistic or impossible. Believe in yourself first and never stop working toward your goal. Keep plugging away at it a little bit every day and you’ll get there.
- Accept Critiques
Not all people who criticize your work or your dream are wrong. If someone offers you constructive criticism, take it in and consider it. If what they’re saying feels right to you, or several people are making the same criticism, they’re probably right. Good criticism is a gift, because it makes you a better writer.
- Never Stop Learning
There are tons of wonderful books out there on the craft of writing and on editing and they can help you make your writing more polished and professional. Take writing classes and participate in critique groups. And read everything you can get your hands on. Read fiction and nonfiction, genre and literary, classic and modern, read it all and take from it what you love and what can inform your own writing. It doesn’t pay to be a snob. For the better part of my life I was a snob about romance books and I never read them, but when I was trying to incorporate romance into my own work I realized I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I’d read lots of books that had romantic scenes, but I needed more. Romance writers are the experts on writing love stories and romantic scenes, and by reading their books, I’ve learned to be a better writer (and I’ve become a die-hard fan of romance novels).
- Don’t Stop
Something I’ve heard from a lot of different sources is this advice to writers: If there’s anything else you think you might enjoy doing other than writing, do it. Writing is a tough profession and it’s nearly impossible to make a real living at it, but if you decide you want to be a writer, despite the difficulties, don’t give up. If you’re like me, you go a bit batty if you go too long without writing and you’d write even if you could see the future and knew you’d never be successful. Even so, there are days that I wonder what the hell I’m doing and want to throw in the towel, but I don’t. I push everything else away and just focus on meeting those goals I’ve set for myself. Keep writing, keep pushing, keep doing the hard work. I can’t promise you’ll ever find success, but I can promise you’ll finish that novel. I can promise that if you give up, you’ll never make it as a writer.