I am an author, a playwright, and a freelance editor. I get asked all of the time what advice I have for aspiring writers. I have met a lot of talented and amazing authors of plays, novels, poems, and screenplays, and they all share the same habits Here a few things you can do as well.
1. Write every day
The idea of sitting down every single day and writing profound literary prose can be overwhelming. In reality, it’s much simpler to write every day. One of my writer friends works as an administrative assistant, and every day she writes for 15 minutes before work and for 15 minutes during her lunch break. You can talk about all of the great ideas you have for novels or screenplays all day long, but the number one way to be a writer is to sit down and actually write.
2. Keep a journal
Even for non-writers, a journal is a great tool for self-development. It gives you a place to document your life, process your emotions, and work out important decisions. In addition, writers who journal always have a place to record any ideas that may come to them and a place to practice writing.
3. Look for lessons in everything
When something “bad” happens in your life, this gives you an excellent opportunity. Ask yourself how you can re-frame this seemingly negative event and use it for a basis for your writing. We all experience tragedies, but a skilled writer will be able to find a use for some of them.
4. Silence your inner critic
The critical voices in your head like to run wild when you sit down to write. “This is stupid.” “No one’s going to read this.” “Where is this going?” Don’t listen to them. They will stifle your creativity if you let them, so learn how to shut them up. Don’t judge yourself or limit your creativity.
5. Read as much as you can
Read the kind of books you want to write. Read books that excite you and make you feel passionate about storytelling. Learn from different writers by reading their work. Even if you read a book that you find to be poorly written, ask yourself what you can learn from it.
6. Embrace rejection and criticism
Understand that all art is subjective. Getting rejected means you are putting yourself out there, which is great. I see so many writers who are incredibly talented but they never do anything with their work because they are afraid of rejection. Make a collage out of your rejection letters, and be proud of them. Every rejection you get represents a time when you tried, which is much more than a lot of people can say.
7. Try new things
Learn new skills, participate in new hobbies, go new places. See the world in as many different ways as possible. New activities, new locations, new people, new cultures. All of these things will inspire you to think of new stories.
8. Pay attention to the writing in your life
TV shows, films, even e-mails and social media updates can teach you something about writing. What did you think worked from a storytelling standpoint about that episode of Game of Thrones? Have you noticed a friend who uses poor grammar in his tweets? Are there ways your boss could have structured that e-mail better?
9. Always find ways to grow
Don’t ever think you have reached perfection as a writer. No matter what level you are at, there’s always something to learn. You should always strive to improve.
10. Listen to other writers
In line with #9, some of the ways you can strive to improve and to always be learning are to take writing classes, read writing craft books, read writing blogs, follow writers on social media, etc. Learn from the wisdom of the writers you admire.
11. Challenge yourself
Nothing is too ambitious. Don’t tell yourself you can’t write a science fiction novel or that you can’t write a novel in a month. Allow yourself to go for it.
12. Experience art
Go to museums, go to concerts, go see films, go see live theatre… Always look for new ways to be inspired and support other artists. You never know when a painting, a photograph, a song, or a film will inspire your next story.
13. Follow your obsessions
Write what you want to write, not what your parents or your friends or anyone else want you to write. Don’t write what you think will sell or what you think publishers want to see. Write about the things that make you excited. Write about the things you are passionate about. Write the stories you would love to read.
14. Value your own voice
Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Don’t try to be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. Everyone has their own unique experiences, their own perspective. No two writers will have the same stories inside of them or tell stories in the same way. Find the stories only you can tell, and write them down. And when you’ve done that, keep writing.
Featured photo credit: Girl Writing in Her Moleskine Diary/Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com