When the subject of writing is brought up among friends and acquaintances, there are always a few souls who comment, “I always wanted to write a novel, but I don’t have the time,” or “I’ve started a few stories, but can’t seem to find the time to finish them.” The common theme to both these dilemmas is TIME. I would love to say that writing a book is an easy process, devoid of obstacles, but that is unrealistic, and this article is designed to keep it real. By no means do I wish to deter the aspiring author from embracing the writing endeavor – on the contrary, I want to encourage you, and provide some insights into the process to help you along the way. Quick disclaimer note: my point of view is that of a Fantasy author. Though these principles transcend genres, it would be poor form on my part to not disclose that upfront.
Earlier, I mentioned obstacles. These are real barriers that should not be taken likely. But first let me say that writing is a labor of love. I didn’t put my imagination on paper because I thought it would be cool to be published. I write because I HAVE TO WRITE. True writers have that small voice inside them – call it a muse, an epiphany, or whatever way you define inspiration. We wake up at odd hours of the night to answer our muse’s call, or spontaneously begin scribbling on a napkin while having a drink at our local pub. But even those who are overwhelmed with the desire to write, the obstacles are still present.
Obstacles: There is no greater obstacle than time. Life can be precarious – deterring us from our passions. Lack of support can also hinder us by deflating the love you have for whatever topic you’re writing about. Lastly, there is lack of discipline. In my opinion, there is no such thing as writer’s block – there is only distraction. When combined with the former obstacles, what you may face is an unsavory environment to work your craft. My solution embodies strategies that will help you face all three of these obstacles without causing any detrimental effect with your life or the craft of writing you have been called to…and yes, it’s a calling – don’t forget that.
Solution: The first obstacle we have to overcome is time. Most of us have hectic lives and schedules. But be as that may, there are pockets of time that are overlooked that one can dedicate to writing. When starting out, think small. There are mainstream, business sycophants that instruct that you have to write “X” words per day or “X” words per month in order to be successful. By the Old Gods or the New, don’t listen to them. Writing is a habit that needs to be nurtured just like any muscle in the body. Start out by putting aside one hour during the day or night to begin writing. Don’t worry about the amount of content that’s completed during that hour – just develop the habit of dedicating that hour for writing. On some days you will write more than others, and that is okay. If you placed a personal goal for quantity, please don’t punish yourself if on a particular day, you don’t meet that goal. Acknowledge it, and then gird your loins for battle for the following day (Sorry…had to insert my medieval fantasy reference). This is how I approached my debut novel, Shadows of Kings. I began with baby steps before smoothly walking, and then ending in a full sprint. Make this time your own. You may find it to be your “Happy Place.” After all, you wanted to do this because you had the desire to write. Now you have a special time focused for that endeavor. How you prepare that space is completely your discretion. Many like music playing in the background, others like complete silence, while some prefer ambient noise to force them to concentrate. You must experiment and decide…but the most important lesson is to MAKE THE TIME. If this means sacrificing one of your favorite T.V. shows, well…you will need to ask yourself, “What do I love more, watching something someone else wrote about, or creating something myself?”
Breathing life into Shadows of Kings was more important than whatever was on HBO any given morning. And at times, I can behave like a self-indulged Diva, so that choice was easy for me. And behold, as you commit to this process, you will discover that sacrificing one hour wasn’t so bad…maybe I can set aside two hours. So with a little practice, the obstacles of lack of discipline and time can be quelled.
Now we come to lack of support. This can come in multiple facets – those who don’t support the effort you’re undertaking outright and your actual content. Since this article must be limited to a certain number of words, I can only lightly touch the first aspect. If you are in an environment that does not support your endeavor to become a writer, the best answer I can give you is open communication. It’s up to you to express to those who feel you are wasting your time, that this is very important to you and will not undermine any other responsibilities you may have. Each household and lifestyle is different, so I must leave the communication aspect in your capable hands. But I assure you…if your passion is conveyed and there is conviction with your actions, responsible people will see that you take this journey seriously. The second facet is content. What I recommend is that after completing your piece, choose a soft audience. This is someone who is very close to you and loves the genre you are writing about. It could be friend or family, but be mindful…in my experience, family members can suffer from the Familiarity breeds contempt syndrome.
Listen to what your soft audience has to say. Their critique will tend to be softer than the usual pair of eyes. Make corrections, re-edit and then seek the warm audience. Like the soft audience, you are targeting people who enjoy the same genre, but now you are reaching out to individuals who are more estranged, but whose opinion you value. Again, be open to their critique, make changes where necessary and move on to the last group – the hard audience. In every circle of friends and acquaintances there are the opinionated people who at times really love the sound of their own voice. You need to be thick-skinned, and filter the general ranting from authentic criticisms. This group can derail many would-be authors, but be strong. Amidst the diatribe can be nuggets of gold that could take your writing to the next level.
Writing is a wonderful process. It’s an exercise that one can see growth in just a short amount of time. Be diligent and you will see the fruits of your labor…and it is a labor of love. Remember, you don’t need to be published to call yourself a writer…and I will have words with anyone who says otherwise. How you are measured in the beginning will be determined by your convictions. And when beginning, don’t worry about publishing contracts or agents…just write.
Oceans of Love,
Dive into the Dragon Rising Saga with the first book of the series – Shadows of Kings
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