There’s a magic word in the real estate business that is important: Location, location, location. There’s also a magic word in the publishing business: Perseverance, perseverance, perseverance.
Even if you don’t want to write for publication, you must still persevere. You as a writer must go to the “office” or special place where your stories are crafted—whether it be poetry, fiction or nonfiction—and push the pen’s ink onto white space or pound the keys of a computer until sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, scene by scene, chapter by chapter, a glimmer of a story appears. Then revise.
Having writers block and can’t think of a thing to write? Take a break and try reading to get the creative juices flowing again. Devour books on many subjects. Then go back to your earliest memories and jot down things you can recall. Is there a story that can be fleshed out into a poem or nonfiction story? Or can you take a memory and craft an entire book around the time the circus rolled into town or the time the relative with the many quirks and eccentricities showed up for a lengthy stay?
Here’s an example from my own childhood: I detested anything that hinted of science fiction and loathed science projects in school and would rather suffer instead through writing a 10,000 page report for a grade. Later in life, however, I discovered the author Madeleine L’Engle. Her writing opened up a new world for me with her children’s book A Wrinkle in Time. She made traveling through outer space riveting and exciting. Later I began reading magazines on science and astronomy. To my surprise, I loved learning more about black holes and once found myself mesmerized in New York’s Hayden Planetarium. My curiosity had been tweaked on topics other than travel, archaeology, and anthropology.
There’s another important word for a writer: curiosity. Be curious about everything. How things work. What makes humans—and animals—react to certain stimuli? After creating a blog, I sometimes interviewed authors and songwriters which later lead to my becoming the Editor-at-Large for Southern Writers Magazine and later Contributing Editor. Having a genuine interest in authors and how they created alternate worlds or how they took nonfiction and wrote about it creatively allowed me to accept writing jobs I never dreamed of. A pundit for a newspaper for several years, I’d also never dreamed it possible to have my own column.
But here’s the skinny: Each form, discipline, or genre of writing helps hone your writing craft. Rejections roll off your back because you know that with perseverance you’ll keep placing articles or land the big Kahuna for a meaty sale. The check might buy a measly cheeseburger for one but with perseverance, a filet-mignon check might be forthcoming because the third important word to remember is “dream.” And when you’re dreaming, dream big.
Robert Louis Stevenson, author of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, dreamed many of his stories. Early in his life, he dreamed complete stories and learned that he could go back at times to the same dreams on succeeding nights to give them a different ending. He eventually trained himself to remember dreams and to dream plots for his books.
For some mystifying reason, I’ve not been able to train my brain to dream plots during the night. Big sigh with a forlorn violin tune. But one thing I have been successful doing is keeping a dream journal by my bed. Occasionally, I go back to the journal and I’m able to take a morsel from a few tidbits and turn them into poems and stories. And with practice, you can be successful at doing this too.
“But I’m just a child,” you say. “A kid with no talent. No money to visit planetariums and such. Besides, publishers only publish adults.” Don’t let that stop you. Dream big. Dreams are free. You exist. Therefore you have stories. Good, bad, ugly, sweet or sour, you have stories in you and you were also created with the ability to imagine—an imagination is a plus. And there are some magazines out there that publish children’s writing.
Here’s a Bible verse that’s always been extremely interesting to me: “Let no man despise thy youth…” 1 Timothy 4:12. Just because you’re young, you still have a voice and talent if not latent talent. But no particular writing voice yet? Some say you’re born with a writing voice. I say it can also be learned. Study hard. Like there’s no tomorrow.
Then, practice, practice, practice until you find your writing voice. It’s called discipline. Keeping the fanny in the chair until you have a body of work. And don’t hesitate to search out those who are willing to publish what you might have penned. Then submit.
I once read that seven is the number of perfection. So here is your Seven Writing Points takeaway that will help you grow as a writer—nothing magical about it, just my tried and true rules for success:
- Cultivate Curiosity
- Dream Big
- Write with Voice
- Practice, Practice, Practice (keep fanny in chair)