Thursday, 26 April 2012

W is for Writing

"W" day in my series "26 Things that Made Me a Writer".

This might seem an obvious one for today, but the number one thing that made me a writer is writing.

A long time ago, I used to dabble in writing. I'd have the odd idea which I'd scribble down and shove somewhere, probably under the bed, without thinking it was very good. Then, about six weeks later, I would sit down and have a go at writing it, which took a phenomenal effort.

I never finished these stories. They tended to go round in circles, or I'd get stuck and walk away. I think my problem was that I expected everything to be perfect as soon as I put it down. My ideas weren't perfect, so I was reluctant to work on them, and then I didn't like what I wrote.

When I decided to take writing seriously I wrote a novel. I'd come to the conclusion that I couldn't nail short stories, and I wanted something that would demand a sustained effort. I think it paid off. I learnt to let go during that process, to an extent, and realise that getting anything down on paper was better than agonising.

Now, I feel like something approaching a proper writer. My relationship with a blank page used to be strained and awkward. I was embarrassed. I still feel like that a bit, especially on a bad day, but what's really helped me is rhythm and routine, as well as an emotional investment in my characters. I need to stick around to find out how things pan out for them.

Tell me a little bit about your writing journey.


Cynthia said...

Like you, I went through phases where I would write something out, take a break, and struggle when I return to it after an extended period of time. (I talk about this some more during Day Y.) I got a little more serious when I learned more about the publishing industry and about how most published authors' became published authors. I've also learned through many long nights on the laptop that I just have to hang in there on good writing days, and the bad ones too.
Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Yeah, it's taken a lot for me to accept that I can't achieve perfection on the first draft. You'd think that was obvious wouldn't you... I guess I'm a slow learner, lol.

Tobi Summers said...

I actually had a pretty easy time of remaining focused and actually finishing problems until I got to college. I finished a novella at 12 and 16 and thought, "Psh, I got this." Then the third one I was working on took a detour from the outline I'd written, and I completely fell apart. For the next four years or so, I kept starting projects, getting to that hard part in the middle (aka chapter 3), and discarding them. It's only recently that I've been able to push through it. I've also only recently accepted that it's okay for the first draft to suck, and that revisions are there for a reason.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm a perfectionist so it's still difficult to get that first draft down on paper.

Luanne G. Smith said...

There's nothing like writing to learn how to write. Er, except maybe reading. And I've had to learn the lesson of letting go of perfection too. Good writing seems to be mostly about revision. :)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I'm learning that, for me, it's all a process, a process that changes and evolves. How I write now is different than how I wrote ten years ago, etc. It varies with what i write - stories, novels, etc - and where I am in the process - idea, scene, notes, loose outline, etc.

Sometimes the whole thing drives me (and my poor husband!) crazy but mostly, I love it. :)

Nick Wilford said...

Cynthia - Yeah, long breaks don't really help - consistency is the key.

Lynda - It would be nice if that first draft was perfect... but revising can be satisfying, if maddening!

Tobi - Wow, I wish I'd been as productive as you at that age! It is harder to devote as much time to it when you're older. I'm glad you've got back into it.

Alex - I know what you mean. But it's good when you have something to work with!

L.G. - Can't forget reading! It seems the first draft is about the story and revising is about the polish.

Madeline - Yeah, I feel like I'm always evolving too, and it's good to try different forms such as flash fiction. It's all learning!

Mina Burrows said...

Short stories aren't my thing. Maybe flash fiction, but not SS.

My challenge with novel writing is the editing part, but I do find as time goes on I am getting better at...slowly.

Shelley Sly said...

I agree that writing a novel helped me write more seriously. Working toward something bigger like that helped me stick with it. I can and do write short stories (and complete majority of them), but I'm just not as focused and determined as I am with a novel.

Unknown said...

Nick, I'd say my writing journey has been very similar. Especially in terms of finally making peace with the page.

Don't get me wrong, I've always enjoyed writing, but didn't always feel I was doing it with a purpose. I was kind of just putting words down. I'm gradually learning to tell stories, if that makes sense?

Anyway, wanted to say thank you for visiting my blog the other day. Now following yours as well, and looking forward reading more.


Anonymous said...

Nick, I'll just have to ditto you. My writing journey sounds pretty similar to yours. :)

Morgan said...

I've never been one for short stories... it was the idea of tackling a huge piece of work that has always appealed to me. I'm on my third novel now and loving the adventure! ;)

Nicole said...

I've been writing, in one form or another, since I can remember. I started a few drafts in h.s., but didn't truly get serious about the process and business side of it until college.

Liwi said...

For writing it's definitely true that practice makes just gotta jump into cold water (blank pages) and get started...and write lots. I started my blog to get more routine! I think it's important to not always have the highest of expectations for yourself. Sometimes you just gotta write for the sake of writing.

Golden Eagle said...

I mostly did the same thing. I'd work on projects but not finish any of them, until I finally finished a novel in January of last year.

The Golden Eagle
The Eagle's Aerial Perspective


I am so with you. The need to get it perfect the first time used to prevent me from writing at all. Now I feel freedom in writing that first draft because I'm allowed to do anything I want - just get it all out there and see what works, I get to have fun with the story.

Nick Wilford said...

Mina - Here's to getting better! Editing is hard.

Shelley - I feel much the same, although it is still a good achievement to write a good short story and much quicker.

E.J. - I know exactly what you're saying. I used to be desperate to write anything, even though I knew my ideas weren't strong enough.

Look forward to reading more from you too, although I won't be around much over the next few days. I'll start afresh when I get back!

Linda - I think a lot of us will be the same.

Morgan - Writing a novel is definitely rewarding. Glad you're enjoying it!

Nicole - I've still got a lot to learn about the business side!

Liwi - The blog helps with being accountable and mulling over problems. Yeah, we need to learn to be OK about putting stuff down that's not up to the highest standard!

Golden - Congrats on the novel. It's a big thing!

Trisha said...

Yeah, the advice I always give any writer who's struggling to write is... "Don't worry about it being perfect, just write it! You can edit later!" I still know writers who can't do that. They will write thousands of words, then scrap them and start over.

Chuck said...

You hit it on the head for me Nick...I expected perfection the first go. Silly hubris!

C.B. Wentworth said...

I'm so glad you picked up your pen, again. :-)

I started writing in journals when I was about eight years old and started writing poetry at about seven years old (I still have my first "book" of poetry I wrote). All through high school I wrote stories, but during college I had to give it up to focus on my studies. After surviving my first few years of teaching, I found myself wandering back to my passion. Now, I write whatever I'm inspired to write and I don't plan on stopping.

Keep writing!! :-)

Nick Wilford said...

Sarcasm Goddess - Yes, need to remember the first draft should be fun. I'm leaning more towards pantsing it now.

Trisha - It's hard when it doesn't seem like it's going well. But a good way to look at it is, when revising, highlight what does work and focus on that.

Chuck - I know. I used to have not patience to revise, but I'm learning that.

C.B. - I think that's a common story for a lot of us. Writing a lot when young, but then life getting in the way when you get older. I guess that separates out the true writers - those who are prepared to go to a lot of trouble to fit it in!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Nick .. in simple terms my blog letters out to relatives and friends - who said don't stop. I'm lucky my voice seemed to follow .. and I love it. My mother's illness has opened new doors for me ..

Cheers and just enjoy that break .. Hilary

Anonymous said...

I started writing again about a year ago, after a very long hiatus. I'm not a fiction writer, so I'm still just doing this for fun. Book reviews, essays & expository writing are the things I do best, and that's were my interests are. Hopefully one day that will parlay into a paying gig somewhere.

Nick Wilford said...

Hilary - It's good that something so positive came out of your mother's illness, it seems that often our blogs turn into something far beyond what was originally planned.

thespotts - Good luck with your writing. Yeah, it would be good to earn some money someday, but I think it's most important to have fun!