I’m leery of getting or giving any kind of advice, but sometimes, when confidence is lagging, it helps to keep a list of simple things to piss off that inner Grand Inquisitor that tells you that you can’t finish that project and who the hell are you for trying? Use this one or make your own list in a writer’s notebook. Collect provocations. Keep adding to them. Experiment with things that make sense, draw flow charts, throw darts, bake a cake, go fishing, whatever works. I listed ten provocations here. Why 10 things? Something about the Arabic idea of numeric completion? I don’t know, because really, the list could be endless. But here are ten. Return to your list often and never give up.
1. WRITE ALL THE TIME
2. READ WIDELY AND DEEPLY
Reading fuels writing. Read poems/stories/novels first like a reader, for content and entertainment. Then read them again like a writer to study the craft, to copy beautiful language into your notebook, to teach yourself about rhythm, voice, and anything that it has to offer.
3. WRITE WHATEVER YOU DAMN WELL WANT TO WRITE
Forget writing to please others or what you think they want or expect. Don’t let other people’s opinions shape those first drafts. Those are for you only.
4. COLLECT WHAT INSPIRES YOU IN YOUR NOTEBOOK
What lights a fire in you? Whatever it is, keep it close, let it work inside your dreams and visions, because that’s where fiction is born. Write what happens in your life every day. For practice, choose one incident per day and write it as a vignette: Include details, dialogue, characters. Give it a beginning, middle and end, as if it were a short story or scene in a novel. Who knows? A novel might emerge.
5. DON’T GET IT RIGHT, GET IT DOWN
If you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t a writer. Whatever you’re going through, use it. Get it out. Things get cleaned up and made right later.
6. MOVE YOUR BODY
Dance, get outside, walk, ride a bike, toss a frisbee, play, watch people and listen to them. Move through the world and feel it on your skin. Fill your senses and breathe and laugh. Then return with a clearer mind.
7. LISTEN TO MUSIC
Whatever you love, but music without lyrics is less distracting and will influence your writing in ways you can’t imagine.
8. DON’T ENTER CONTESTS
Just don’t. They aren’t good for you. Better to ignore what other people are doing. When you compare yourself to others you can get discouraged and feel inadequate.
9. DO YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER OR DO YOU WANT TO WRITE?
There’s a difference. Fame and fortune are seductive, but art is the business of the human soul. Be careful that you don’t confuse the two.
10. TRUST YOURSELF
There’s so much noise and distraction around us we forget that creativity comes from the silence inside our own beings. Learn how to trust being alone with that silence.