This past week, I had an interesting experience. It’s our year to host my husband’s office Christmas party (don’t get me started), so I had to have the living room carpet cleaned. As usual the carpet cleaners came in a pair, and at one point, the older man asked what I did. I told him I was a writer–which, as I hadn’t written much in over a week felt a little pompous. His eyes lit up and said, “you’ve got to talk to my son!”
And I did, for half an hour. It was a nice conversation–the young man was a new father and wanted to write a book on self-defense for children. His father was extremely proud of him and supportive; it was heartwarming to see. We discussed some of the common problems all writers face as they’re starting out (and after!)–namely, the Big Three”: Time, Discipline, and Confidence. They’re serious, daunting, and could kill your writing dreams before you start. But you can vanquish them!
With a day job, a wife and a toddler, the young man faces big challenges in the time department. But he already has a secret weapon: a father who believes in him. Hopefully, his wife supports his dreams as well; if so, he can count on her for a few free hours per week to work on his book. If not, perhaps Grandpa will babysit. No matter how packed with responsibility your life is, you can find those few hours in the day (or week). Our young friend realized that he might have to “give up XBox and TV”; you may have to make similar sacrifices. But you can, and chances are, the charge you get out of writing will more than compensate you.
Once you find that time, use it! One thing I learned from writing for internet clients was the art of working when I don’t really want to. It’s amazing how deadlines can focus your attention. Try setting your own deadlines–and supply yourself with both a carrot and a stick. If, like me, you have a hard time taking self-imposed deadlines seriously, you may want to consider taking on writing assignments for pay. Offer to write a newsletter for a group you’re involved in; put together resumes and cover letters; keep a blog; write for a local magazine, or even for an online business like Demand Studios. You won’t make much money, trust me, but you’ll learn that you can make those words appear, even if you’re not feeling “inspired.” If you want to have a writing career, this lesson is crucial.
Finally, all writers need confidence. We’ve probably all been through our “cocky” stage. Often this occurs in high school or college, when we get those lovely A’s and know, instinctively, that we’re as good as –and often better than–our classmates. However, eventually, we fall off our little self-constructed pedestals. Most adult writers I know are secretly afraid that they suck, and have no business writing a FaceBook status, let alone a novel. If this is your problem, find a way to put your writing out there as soon as possible–whether through a blog, writer’s group, internet work, continuing ed class–whatever you can come up with. In most cases, you’ll find that people like your work. If they don’t, you’ll get constructive criticism to help you improve–and you’ll learn that criticism itself won’t kill you. After all, you’ll need that thick skin when Janet Maslin points out a flaw in your pacing in that NYT book review!
Well, this is my final Museful Monday blog post this year! Hope you find it helpful, and that the holidays bring you lots of writing joys as you look forward to success in the New Year!