The following are some things I have learned from experience and have also found are the experience of other writers.
Keep things simple to start with. Writing is fun. If you are not enjoying it, it may not be for you because it is notoriously underpaid and undervalued work, the personal satisfaction often outweighs the financial reward. I was once given the advice to write what I would enjoy reading. This approach helped me get into the flow of writing short stores. Remember, if you enjoy writing it, others will enjoy reading it.
Start by writing 100 words each time you sit down, take it up to 300, 500, onwards. Do the Maths, numbers add up. That short story or novel is no longer out of your reach.
Find other writers. Although writing is a solitary act, we are all colleagues and just like any other profession you need to have that shared understanding. Truth is, writers see the world differently and sometimes that can fuel the fear to not use your gift. Knowing that you are not alone will help you stay grounded and motivated. Look out for a local group or interact with other writers on social media.
Enrol in a workshop or take an online writing course. Online workshops may seem odd but I have taken many of them as a result of travelling so much and also when I was conquering my fear of being in a room with other writers. I have found them to be beneficial in terms of expanding my writing and meeting other writers. Writing has no borders.
Attend a lit fest, conference or writing retreat. You will feel so energised being immersed in these events, they will fire you up.
I keep the following four books on my desk because that is how highly I regard them. I refer to them often.
Free-Range Writing by Jenny Alexander: This book will take you out of your writing comfort zone with exercises for poetry, fiction, nonfiction and memoir. You can fit the exercises in whilst drinking coffee in the morning or waiting for a friend to show up at a cafe.
Notes to Self by Jenny Alexander*: This book is perfect for whatever stage you are in your writing. It is a book for writers by a writer and has that feel of a colleague giving you a pep talk before a big presentation. We all need books like this to remind us that we are not going mad; it’s just part of the process
* Jen also runs some amazing workshops, you should check out her site, you won’t be disappointed. Click here.
Right to Write by Julian Cameron: Best known for The Artist’s Way, this is a slimmed down exercise driven book that is great to keep for those days that you need to get your brain going. Writing is a lot like physical exercise, you get better the more you do it, and it trains you to show up to the desk.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield: No joke I re-read this each time I am working on a huge writing project. Why? Because this is the no nonsense put up or shut up book you need to read to get you over the finish line. It feels like a coach keeping you focused as you begin to run short of breath, reminding you to breathe and that you CAN do it.
The following books I keep on a shelf within arm’s reach and I return to them from time to time.
Becoming A Writer by Dorothea Brand The Artist’s way by Julia Cameron The Art of Fiction by John Gardner Writing and Selling Short Stories and Personal Essays by Windy Lynn Harris On Writing by Stephen King The Mindful Writer by Dinty W. Moore The Rose Metal Press Guide to Flash Non Fiction ed. Dinty W. Moore Writing the Memoir from Truth to Art by Judith Barrington 642 Things to Write About by San Francisco Writer’s Grotto and Jason Roberts. Free Your Creative Spirit by Vivianne and Christopher Crowley
Online Resources (not a comprehensive list just some of my faves:
NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month is a great way to motivate yourself to get that book out of you and onto paper One Story: Their online classes are focused, cost efficient and a great way to make new friends. LitHub: A must for all book lovers Aerogramme Writers Studio: Submission opportunities and more. Lambda Literary: LGBTQ+ Literary site with submission opportunities.