What Veteran Writers Know by Rochelle Melander
by Rochelle Melander
Hold onto your keyboards, people. I’m about to reveal the secrets of veteran writers. Once you know these, you’ll have no more excuses. You will have to write that report or book or article. So, read on at your own risk. Oh, and readers, if reading this article wrecks the calm state of your non-writing life by hauling you out of bed at five every morning to write, well: I don’t want to hear about it. I warned you.
1. You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. —Jack London.
I’d be rich if I had a dollar for every writer who said something like, “I’ve got plans for a big book. I’m just waiting to be inspired to write it.” I only get inspired to eat chocolate and drink wine. I don’t get inspired to write or exercise. NEVER. Inspiration happens when I’m writing. Go and do likewise.
2. Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed. —Ray Bradbury
A bookseller once said to me, “I don’t think you have an unpublished thought.” He was wrong. I have tons of unpublished thoughts. I also have an attic stacked with boxes of unpublished manuscripts. Writers write a lot. Not everything gets published. Nor should it. But the key to this lesson is this: your writing gets better with practice. So keep at it.
3. Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer. —Barbara Kingsolver
Many writers are doomed by the fear of what others will think or say about their writing. They don’t want to offend their family, their colleagues or their old English teacher. If you’re going to write anything worth reading, you need to write what you think. Lots of people can write but no one else brings your particular set of experience, education, and imagination. Stop worrying and write what you want to read.
4. The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true. —John Steinbeck
So it’s a beautiful fall day, maybe the last before winter starts, and you’re crouched over your laptop at the local coffee shop writing about the mating behaviors of turtles. You keep your butt in the chair by believing that someone’s life will be bettered by knowing this information, and you are the one to deliver it. Believe me, writers—you need the kind of blind faith and tenacity Steinbeck talks about to finish writing anything. Believe in yourself and what you have to offer the world.
5. I can’t write five words but that I change seven. —Dorothy Parker
Veteran writers rewrite. They take a look at their precious words and their favorite phrases, and they slash the ones that don’t work. If you’re going to write well, you need to learn that the first draft is only the beginning.
Okay, readers. Now it is your turn. Go out and write.
But first: Leave your favorite writing quotes in the comments below!
My current sig line:
“Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of – but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.” – Robert Heinlein
Love that one! Thanks!