Today, to commemorate that milestone, I’m going to share 20 things I’ve learned about writing from these 200 blog posts. But I’m going to give you these five at a time; in short, listicle episodes. Over these next four weeks.
Call it spreading the love, but I believe good things should come in small, digestible and regular packages, don’t you?
Ready? Let’s go!
#1 There’s no such thing as a perfect first draft
The vain among us think this true for everyone else but them! But that still doesn’t make them right.
Rare is the writer who gets it perfect the first time. Even Stephen King calls his first draft, the “crummy first draft”. Other variations include “shitty first draft” (Anne Lamott) and “the vomit draft” (Marion Roach Smith).
And having spent several hours over nearly each of my 200 blog posts writing and re-writing, I can testify to all these descriptions!
Which brings me to my next point.
#2 Rewrites never end
This explains why I prefer not to re-read some of my old posts; I always find something to change! Sure puts paid to the old saying that we’re “our own worse critic”!
So at some point I have to make the call and say: “Okay this is the best I can pull out from my gut for now, so I’ll just go with it.”
When that happens, I tell myself it’s alright. Don’t sweat it. With more practice, rewrites do get better. According to Fast Company’s Bud Bilanich, rewrites are “key to good writing”. Even famous author James A. Michener once declared: “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” He who wrote more than 40 books and won a Pulitzer Prize must know what he’s talking about.
Meaning the rest of us mere mortals and burgeoning writers have no excuse!
Which is an apt lead-in to my next point.
#3 Commit to it like I would any job
Many consider writing frivolous. They think if you aren’t making money from it, then you’re no better than a teen diarist.
Now I’m a good several strands of white hair away from being mistaken for a teen, let alone a teen diarist! But I get how the world pooh-poohs things they themselves rarely understand, nor undertake. Chances are they never got around to committing time to write, let alone rewrite.
What have I learned from persistent rewrites over the past two years? I now have a stronger sense of my voice in my writing. And a better grasp of my regular content (read #5 below).
This kind of realisation could only have come from committing to writing on a regular, long term basis. Like anyone would commit to a job they take up.
So resolve to keep writing, even if no one pays for or reads it but you!
And that brings me to another hard truth about writing.
#4 To write well, discipline not inspiration, is the clincher!
I used to think creative people sit around all day and night, and new, exciting ideas just descend from heaven and enter their heads, flooding their minds and inspiring their next masterpiece..
The truth is probably closer to what renown filmmaker Woody Allen once said: “80 per cent of success is showing up.”
He’s saying that the real clincher is the discipline of simply turning up. In the case of writers, that means turning up to a nice, clean desk every day with maybe a delicious cup of cocoa on the side, ready (or not) to write!
That’s what nails the writing. That’s what clinches the (eventual) success.
Believe me, I’ve tried to avoid the hard work of discipline more times in my life than I care to count. And I still do! I go for a swim, scroll through my Instagram feeds, or binge-watch Golden Girls re-runs on Youtube. Just to avoid the tough stuff.
Unfortunately, success doesn’t come that way.
Which means I’ve no choice but to schedule a regular (repeated) time, day and place for my writing..
And show up!
Which brings me to my final point today: what do you do once you show up?
#5 Write what I know, but every now and then, try something else too!
The old adage “write what you know” holds, and it’s a great way to keep your writing authentic and believable. So in nearly all my 200 blog posts, I’ve kept to topics that drove my blog’s genesis: autism, parenting, writing and life. And my writing style’s been mostly expository and circumspect.
But that doesn’t mean I have to stick to this formula tooth and nail.
I found that out when I tried my hand with poetry writing last September and had such fun! I’ve always enjoyed a rhyming couplet or two but never thought about writing any. The process and eventual completion of each of my “Monday Metrical Musings” felt like I had just completed an Ayurvedic spa treatment! Sighhh…
And guess what? After posting just a few book reviews, I was pleasantly rewarded when the nice people from Reedsy Discovery approached me recently to invite me to join them and write book reviews! (This post was what drew them)
Unbelievable right? But hey, if it can happen to me, it can certainly happen to you too!
See you next week!
Hope this first set of five things I’ve learnt have given you some useful food for thought.
See you here next Wednesday for my next five, okay?