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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

ON BEING A WRITER

"True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance..."
Alexander Pope 1688 - 1744 "An Essay on Criticism" (l711) l 162

That quote by Alexander Pope is so true. The art of writing is a talent you are born with, but you must practice it to hone those inborn skills. Like a dancer must rehearse, a musician must practice every day, an athelete must train, a writer must write! Even if all you are writing is notes in a personal journal or a blog , a writer must write something every day to improve the art. Basic ability is not enough, a would-be novelist (or any writer) must observe these 5 important D's.

DESIRE - the desire to write more than anything else (whether it's that novel or travel story or essay, memoir, poem)
DRIVE - the drive to get started
DETERMINATION - the will to continue whatever the stumbling blocks and difficulties encountered along the way.
DISCIPLINE - the disipline to write every day, whatever your mood.
DEDICATION - to the project until the very last page is finished.
And here's an important warning!
Avoid this 6th "D" - DISTRACTIONS, The enemy of all writers.

There's another big "C" that writers need to keep in mind too: COMMITMENT

I know from my own experience as a writer that these 'rules' can be very difficult to follow. But if you really put your mind to it, you can, and it will only be to your benefit. In the last two months I've really made an effort to stay on track, to avoid those DISTRACTIONS and as a result I have succeeded in completing seven new travel articles and begun a new chapter of my novel. My aim is to finish Shadow of the Lion before I go away in mid May. Although this may not be possible, (I don't have much left to write, but it requires a lot of thought and planning) I will definitely give it a try. Because I have written a lot of this novel in spontaneous bits and pieces, now that I'm near the end I have found much of it has been pre-written, so it's a matter of filling in the blanks so that I can forge onward more easily.

I write every day, usually in one of my blogs, on-line or personal journal or jotting notes for the novel and editing/writing bits of it. Now I'm almost caught up on my back-log of travel stories I only have to work on the Chile stories. One thing has held me up, and that is- I need a new printer/scanner so I can scan photos to send off with the new articles. During my last two months I have spent hours, several days in fact, researching markets for my travel articles. I've sent several of my previously published ones out with some success; I've reworked some of the old stories to update them. Now I need to take time to market the rest so hopefully by this weekend I'll be back in business with new equipment.

Besides writing every day, it's important for writers to be involved with literary groups or events. Unfortunately part of being successful is being able to promote yourself and your work. This isn't always easy, especially for me. But I do belong to various organizations such as the Federation of B.C. Writers and the B.C. Travel Writers Association (of which I'm currently the secretary). As well, I'm on the boards of the Pandora's Poetry Collective and a member of Theatre In the Raw. And what would I do without my Monday night writer's group, the Scribblers?
They have helped keep me focused on my novel for many years now and I value their expert critiques. (And hey, guys, when I finally write "the end" on that manuscript there'll be a huge celebration!) I also teach several writing classes so this has allowed me to grow as a writer (It's an experience I find so inspirational and rewarding.) It's taken me a long time, but now I can really say I am "living the writer's life" as writing has become my full-time "job". I'm even doing some manuscript editing and reader's critiques on the side, putting my own writing skills to work.

Some of these notes are taken from handouts I use in my novel writing classes. What does it take to be a writer? but I think the are valuable and wanted to share them. I hope they inspire the reader as much as they have inspired me.

Here are the seven "States of Being" that support a writing career:
1. BE SURE
2. BE DETERMINED
3 BE OPEN
4. BE PATIENT
5. BE CURIOUS
6. BE SERIOUS
7. BE YOURSELF
8. BE REALISTIC! I added this last one because it is probably one of the most important. (See Sam's comments on this blog). One thing I always tell people in my classes (especially travel writers) Don't quit your day job! You are not going to make a lot of money from your writing (even novel writers don't). Unless you are already employed as a journalist on a publication or happen to be one of the rare lucky ones to hit pay-dirt with a run-away best seller (such as the Harry Potter series) don't expect to get rich quick.
And as for marketing your work, and/or finding an agent....that's another difficult task you have facing you.

About that novel: STARTING: If you haven't got an idea for one, forget it. If you prefer painting, cooking or watching TV, forget it. This novel will be with you for a long time (*mine's been with me for years!) so you beter have thought about it beforehand. When it's
ready to be written, you'll know. It will be with you day and night. You'll even dream about it.
Start when you're fresh. Make yourself comfortable. And begin!

"A bad book is as much of a labor to write as a good one; it comes as sincerely from the author's soul"
Aldous Leonard Huxley 1894- 1963 "Point Counter Point" 1928 Ch. 13





5 comments:

Sam said...

I like your list of the five 'D's. Very apt.
(the 6th D is the one that gets me all the time...)

I'd like to add 'realistic' to the list of 'state of being'.
Writing won't pay the rent, rarely covers the bills, and is often very discouraging.
Most writers have 'real' jobs. Even more have part time jobs to support their writing.
Some writers never get published, even though their writing has merit.
I think that if you can understand that and still want to write, then you're probably a writer! lol

Wynn Bexton said...

How right you are, Sam, and I have added "Realistic" to my list. You'd be surprised how many people come into my travel writing classes who say they want a career change. Then I have to break the news to them. It's impossible to make a living from writing unless (a) you are hired as a staff writer on a publication
(b) you are lucky to hit the jackpot with a best seller novel (which is a bit of a phenomena unless you are already established in the literary world.)

It's a hard slog trying to get an article published and get PAID for it, never mind a novel.

Daisy Dexter Dobbs said...

Ah yes, the dreaded 6th D. Why, in fact, I'm involved in it right at this moment, Wynn. LOL!

I loved this post. Wonderful tips for writers at any stage of their careers.

Marie said...

Thanks for this post. I found the advice really helpful. I agree with the 5 D's and the 6th is definitely my worst enemy.

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