You’ve probably heard a million different lessons regarding the beginning of your writing career, and many of them are probably important and to the point. I didn’t want to add on to the pile-up of information that already exists because I’ve read all of those same tips and lessons as well. So I wanted to keep this blog post brief and easy to digest for you, in an effort to keep from winding on about nothing and to keep from bogging you down with the many things I’ve learned at various levels of the beginning of my career.
At this time, I don’t consider myself an author. Of course, I’ve published work and I continually progress the story bit by bit, but I am not necessarily an author in my own eyes. This is attributed to two things. One, I have never paid a bill with my writing. In the video I believe I paraphrased King a bit incorrectly.
“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.”
I know I have a talent within me for writing and I know it will take a lot of work to master, and then more work to perfect. I am completely fine with that necessity. Writing is an incredible amount of hard work. Before you even get to the publishing and book release process, it is best that you stay committed to the project you are working on today. Write each day and move as slowly as you want. You can write quickly too, however that plan hasn’t gone well for me. See, I’ve spent the last two years writing novels in under 30 days. An impressive feat, but one that comes with a significant price tag. Those books will require so much editing and adjusting that I essentially will have to go through and re-write what I’ve already made. Which in the end, will waste your time. I’ve learned a lot over the course of my career, and these are the five most important lessons that I’ve learned.
Lesson One: Everything is your Muse.
Being a writer comes easily to some and to others it can be a terribly painful and difficult process. That shouldn’t deter you from your dream of being the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. Pursuing that dream is arguably one of the most honorable things you could chase after. Of course, I am biased.
Beginning my writing career I found that often times I sought specific things to write about. I only wrote within my interests, which at the time were relatively few. I didn’t have a goal or a purpose in mind for my writing to take shape. I spent much of my day adhering to the few things I loved to inspire me and refused to branch out. Of course, this was compounded by the realization that when I tried writing about something that didn’t interest me, I grew bored of the tale.
Here is where the first lesson applied specifically to myself, and I hope that it will come to light for you as well. When I stopped worrying about writing within the slim banner of passions that I had manicured over years, I began to branch out. For example, I hated science fiction for the majority of my life. I found it uninteresting and boring. The only pass I gave was to Coheed and Cambria because the band meant so much to me personally, still, I wasn’t that interested in the story itself. This of course, evolved after a few years and I stopped trying to make my interests a status symbol.
When I released from the silly idea that the things I enjoyed defined my personality, I came to fall in love with many things. New genres, new music, new people, the whole world opened up and all it took was for me to see things in a different way. Don’t bind yourself to what you know. You should write about the things you are interested in, of course, if not you may find your story growing stale and boring. If that is a must, then each of us would only have a few things that we would want to write. If then, that is the case.
Expand your interests.
The world is your oyster.
Lesson Two: There is a Story Within You
Every story I’ve ever written was based on many things. I took inspiration from people and places and songs and creators and ideas, but at their core they were spawned from something inside of my own heart that I believed to be true, or false.
The Darling Bones, the first novel I released, was about my own heartbreak at the time. It was an outcry for the desire to love and be loved in return, set through the eyes of a broken young man whose lover had just perished.
Coward, my most recently finished novel, is about the fear of relationships and commitment, at the core. It’s about the duplicity inside myself and others. The way we fight against what we know we want out of fear. It is about the urge to run and hide instead of bearing your soul to another person.
All of these came from within me, and just like me, there is something within you just begging to be released. Why not start there?
Lesson Three: Cast a Grand Shadow
I’ve always been told that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. I believe in my heart that if you set out to accomplish a task, you should set your sights high. Blow everyone that’s already accomplished the same task out of the water. Be revolutionary and do it better. You’ve got all of the tools before you. Since I brought up King earlier, let’s look at him. If you are a fan of horror and want to work into the genre dominated by garbage erotica and knock offs of the masters who’ve come before, you will need to apply some similar techniques. You can look at the greats in the horror genre, King, Lovecraft, whomever you choose, and all of their tricks are laid bare before you. It will take some study and research, but you are able to see the very steps they took to get to where they are and that is your greatest ally.
Of course, study their technique, study their prose, the way their words wrap around each other and steal it. Make it your own. Fight to shine your own identity through the tricks and skills of those who’ve come before you, because Stephen King won’t be the King of horror forever. He will need a replacement.
I believe that if you have the desire to be that replacement, you can be. All you need to do is study, a lot. Learn. A lot. And make sure that you don’t waste your time by copying their work word for word. Don’t write about a mysterious figure that returns every 27 years. Write about one that is uniquely your own, and doesn’t fall to the trap of mimicry.
You’ve written and grown in the shadow of the greats. Work to replace them and cast your own shadows.
Lesson Four: Repetition is a Curse, Learning is a Blessing
I worked tirelessly on The Darling Bones, and I literally mean tirelessly. I pumped so much caffeine and shit into my body that I forced myself to avoid sleep. I made sure that I didn’t close my eyes once so that I didn’t have to waste a moment writing and editing. Of course, with the book edited in under two weeks, and on a constant sleepless caffeine high you can imagine how well my plan worked.
When I released The Darling Bones for the first time, regardless of how much I loved it, the book was shit. This came after warnings from friends and family to slow down, to move at my own pace and all that. I didn’t listen because I wanted to be an author. I wanted to say that I was something special. Which, in turn is why I don’t call myself an author publicly at this time. I choose not to, because I associate too much with that title. I will harm my body and my mind for the sake of being an “author” at whatever the cost, because it is all I want in my life.
This is a horrible mentality to have.
Don’t force yourself to put out shit work just so you can tell your friends a coworkers that you are a published author. It’s like my dad has told me since I was a little boy.
“Measure twice, cut once.”
That adage goes a long way in the world of writing. I’ve now published the same book three times at various editing levels and various editions to say that I am an author, but this time I can say it about a good book.
Don’t fall into the trap of repeated work for the sake of celebrity. Especially if it is your first work. I promise you won’t be getting a star on Hollywood Blvd.
Lesson Five: Take Care of Yourself
I mentioned back a couple paragraphs that I strained my mental and physical health for the sake of getting my book done. This was without argument the worst decision I’ve ever made. It’s been years and I am still suffering from the fallout of that choice. Sleeping is difficult. I have headaches and problems focusing, even still. It could be the cause of many things, but those problems weren’t present before then. It was something that I did for the sake of some kind of imaginary accolade. Guys do dumb shit for respect, and most times after you grow up a bit, the people who respected you for pulling a 30-day bender with little sleep will take back that respect they had cause you could have killed yourself.
You should be writing every day, of course. But that isn’t ALL you should be doing. You should spend some time outside. Go have lunch with your friends. Make sure your mental health stays in a good place. Be sure that you’re getting enough sleep. Writing while exhausted is no way to write, trust me. It isn’t worth the stress you will put your body through. I’ve put my body through a lot of it.
The point is, writing is already a difficult career path. Don’t make it harder.
I have a lot more that I’ve learned, but these are the five most important lessons I’ve picked up along the way. Thank you for reading and I hope that it got to you. If you have any questions or need any help beginning your writing career, I’ve started a YouTube channel just for that. You can follow the link below and watch the video about this topic, and check back to the last video “Should I Write?” While you’re there.
I’ll have a poem and a new blog post out for the movement tomorrow around 5 PM! Don’t miss it.