Dangers of Writing
“Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.”
When I first read this quote, it was accredited to Ernest Hemmingway. Apparently many great writers have used a version of this phrase. Red Smith, Jeff MacNelly, Friedrich Nietzsche, Thomas Wolfe, Paul Gallico, Gene Fowler have all been reported to have used the metaphor for bleeding onto the page. Though dramatic, writing in blood isn’t too far off. They all wouldn’t have said something so similar if it didn’t mean something real. The more I write and seek to improve my writing, the more I understand their meaning. If you use a piece of yourself in your writing, the words connect to your reader. No matter how fantastic, far out, or unrealistic your writing is, if you use a few drops of metaphorical blood, your readers can relate. Humans are the only known species in the universe who have the ability to empathize with symbols printed in ink on dried wood pulp. Any person has the ability to pick up a book and feel something emotionally if the book contains something they can relate to. It is the responsibility of the author to communicate those emotions with the written word. This isn’t easy. There is no specific formula. That’s why writing is an art and not a science.
Today I’ll be visiting 5 dangers writers must face in order to create something to move a reader. There are more but these are the 5 I have been struggling with recently. I may struggle forever, and that’s fine. I would have chosen a different career path if I wanted something easy. Enjoying the challenge makes me feel like I’m not struggling as much. I’m not trying to make writing sound like only the brave or strong can do it. Anybody can do it and everyone will suck at first. The best writers keep at it. You’ve heard it a million times because it's true. You shouldn’t quit something if you arent any good at it. Keep writing until your writing doesn’t suck, and then continue to improve. There is no upper limit. One can always write better.
1: Accepting criticism. Being creative is difficult. Sometimes it feels like your work isn’t appreciated. Sometimes readers entirely miss the point you were trying to communicate. That’s fine. Listen to what they have to say about your writing so you can convey your point more accurately in the future. You put your work out there. People must read your writing in order for you to grow. It doesn’t have to happen right away. You could keep your writing to yourself forever if you wanted to, but you will not improve as quickly. A reader is required if you want to entertain, tell a story, communicate emotion, or even change a very specific part of the world that surrounds you. You can achieve none of those things if you keep your writing to yourself. If you want to take your writing seriously, your work will be open to criticism. Some people will not like your style. They may not like the characters you create, the places you put them, the situations they find themselves in, your plot, or even the way you write. Deal with it. It is important to have thick skin but it can be the hardest thing to do in practice. Getting a bad review will hurt and it should. That means you are invested and you will remember that pain. Writing is subjective though. People are different, they have different tastes, different opinions, and different backgrounds. Someone may not like something you wrote and many others might love it.
I like breaking things down and quantifying them. It’s how I try to keep everything in perspective. For example my 25% rule. If I let 10 beta readers evaluate my work, and 2 of them don’t like a scene but none of the others mention that specific scene, I won’t change it. If 3 beta readers don’t like that scene, I’ll change it. 3 beta readers puts me over my 25% rule because 1/2 beta readers do not exist. This rule isn’t law by any means. It all comes back to me as the author to decide for myself based on my feedback. This is just a way for me to not try to please everybody.
2: Distractions. We have all tried to fish something out of the back of our memory. You bring it forward in your mind until you can recognize it consciously and bam, you remember it. That feeling is so satisfying, right? Now imagine, in that moment right before that satisfying recall, someone asks you a different question and that thought process is destroyed. Frustrating right? I cringed writing this. Distractions kill creativity and it can be infuriating. We’ve each experienced something like that so I know you can understand. When you are frustrated, it can be difficult to explain why you are frustrated, especially when your cognitive ability has been disrupted. This is the recipe for a grumpy writer. Grumpy writer’s write grumpy scenes. Non-writers don’t understand and they may interrupt you. It is the writer's responsibility to communicate how frustrating that can be. Don’t blow up on an interrupter. They will not know why it is such a big deal because you haven’t explained why it is. This being said, don’t set up somewhere you will be interrupted. Sitting on your couch with a laptop while you significant other watched a movie is not where you will create your best work. Go to a different room. Set up away from foot traffic. Writers who write in Starbucks are wanting people to notice they are writing. Sorry. Put headphones on/in as a deterrent as much as for music. People don’t usually talk to people wearing headphones. Music is a big part of my writing process, but I choose music without lyrics. Lyrics are distracting when you have a bunch of words floating around in your gray matter.
3: Procrastination. Possibly the biggest enemy of the writer is the writer for more reasons than one but this might be the biggest. If you find yourself making excuses for why you aren’t writing, you are actively procrastinating. Don’t plan to write. Don’t think about writing. Don’t wait to be in the mood (although it helps) to write. Just write. Writers and authors generally work for themselves. Even if you haven’t sold any of your work, you are your own boss. You make the schedule, you reap the rewards so get to work.
4: Reading. Sacrificing reading time for writing time can be just as damaging as not writing. An author should read what they enjoy reading and write what they enjoy writing. Otherwise, what’s the point? Anybody can hate their job. If you hate writing, do something else. If you hate reading, do something else. Writing requires a lot of both. If you enjoy writing fantasy, read fantasy. If you enjoy writing sci-fi, read sci-fi. There is so much to gain by reading other author’s work in your genre. Notice what you like or dislike about it. Take note of what you thought worked well and what didn’t work. Take what you learned from others and put it in your own writing. I do not mean plagiarism. Don’t copy anybody. Be your own writer with your own style made up of inspiration from your literary heroes.
5: What do vegans and cross-fitters have in common with writers? None of them can shut up about their involvement in those activities. Talking about your work can be exciting and fun. A person asking about your writing is among the best feelings for most writers. Talking about writing, brainstorming ideas or promoting your novel can be constructive and validating, but there are other things. There is more to you as a person. Resist the urge to only talk about your writing. It's what you do, not your personality.
Thanks for reading. I appreciate the support. Seeing my blog get views is invaluable to me, especially since I’m just starting out. I hope at least some of you are benefitting from what I have to say. If you can think of someone who might need to read this or any of my previous posts, feel free to share it. Thanks again.