by Jenny Hansen
It's been a while since I posted a "Top Writing Success Tips" post here at WITS. Previously I've offered tips from the likes of Neil Gaiman, Stephen King and Maya Angelou. Since I don't think any of us can ever have too much writing wisdom, I've gathered a few stellar tips from a writer I respect a hell of a lot -- Nora Roberts.
Even if you don't read romance, mysteries, or YA (she writes all three), she has tons of wisdom to offer. She is an "Every Damn Day" writer who has earned her place on the bestseller charts with a diligent work ethic that boggles the mind.
In an article last spring, titled Here's How I Work, La Nora distilled her writing advice down to these three things (language alert):
She ended this section with: "I take my own advice." Here are some of my thoughts on her advice.
I am the champ at excuses when it comes to writing, so believe me I am not pointing fingers here. I love that a New York Times bestselling author has such a refreshingly no-nonsense point of view.
We own this. Our writing, our dreams, our stories. We don't always own our time -- we have families and jobs and bills. But we can own our writing. We can give our writing dreams top billing.
Sometimes we simply aren't able to do as much as we'd like. We have kids and parents and jobs that need our focus. Heck, last year every bit of my life force was focused on surviving to this year's January 1. To put it in perspective -- as bad as this pandemic has sucked, it hasn't been as excruciatingly difficult for me as 2019.
This time last year, I told my BFF: "Some years you are the dog, and some years you are the fire hydrant." (Whichever one you are right now, it passes. I promise.)
Last year I didn't write much, by choice. I couldn't bear for the most joyful thing in my life to be tainted by drudgery and depression. This year, my energy (and therefore my writing desire) is back, and I've eased back into the joyful end of the writing pool.
Whether you are the dog or the fire hydrant, whether you are writing scads of pages or none...our writing is a gift and a choice. Own it. Do as much as you are able, without excuses.
Nora Roberts works for 6-8 hours on the writing and works out for 90 minutes every day. Although she's more disciplined than the half the writers I meet, there's a lot to be said for routine. Routine can pull a writer through some hard times. Nora prizes her routine but she also credits the Catholic nuns she was schooled by - she says they taught her to just put her head down and do the work.
Our own Laura Drake is similar. Up at the butt-crack of dawn to write, a few hours on Facebook, more time for the online classes she teaches, time with her hubby and early to bed to do it all again.
Setting a routine, and putting your head down to do the work, is a winning combination to finishing books. It also gets you past the scenes when the writing is hard (aka when you want to whine).
As you might know from reading my Bikini Wax Theory of Writing, writing is not always a Disney frolic through the pages for me. I tend to write humorous books with really tough story themes. Tough themes equal tough writing. But those are the stories that come to me, so those are the stories I write.
Many writers are easily distractable. *raises hand* They get caught up on social media, the internet, the laundry pile. There's a lot to be said for just getting your writing done and out of the way first thing in the day.
If your elusive quiet time doesn't happen until the end of the day, you might have to wait until then to get your writing done. I knew one writer who was a full-time newspaper reporter, who finished her entire first book at the lunch table in the courtyard outside her offices.
Let's revisit the "make a routine" advice up above. No matter what time of day your brain clicks into high gear, building a routine around that time. Steven Kotler calls this state "Flow" and defines it as an “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.”
Figure out your "flow" time, stop dinking around, and write. That linked Kotler article offers many examples of what "flow" looks like, and how to get that state of creativity.
Here are a few more posts I came across in my research:
Which tip resonated with you? What no-nonsense tip keeps you going in your own writing life? Tell us all about it down in the comments!
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By day, Jenny provides corporate communications and LinkedIn advice for professional services firms. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction, and short stories. After 18 years as a corporate trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.
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