As you will have worked out, Dear Reader, I have struggled to find time to do any writing for quite a long time. This has been due to an overwhelming workload. Overwork stops you writing in lots of different ways. It physically prevents you writing because you don’t have enough time, or just a few isolated oases, then nothing at all for weeks and weeks. It wears you out so that you can’t write even when you do have some time; right now, I’m exhausted and trying to persuade myself that I really don’t have a headache. Another thing is that your head becomes filled with work rubbish, like what you need to do tomorrow and which meaningless statistics you have to provide next. All this garbage pushes out the stories that normally go round and round in your brain, so that you have nothing in there to write.
What all this is leading up to is that I do get very irritated with all those writing pundits who tell me that I MUST find time to write EVERY DAY. Indeed, I’m not a proper writer unless I do Write Something Every Day. Write anything they say, even if it’s rubbish. You don’t have the time? Well, here’s an idea. Do it early in the morning, before you do anything else.
Yeah right. I’ll think about all those proper writers writing their daily pages, as I drag myself out of bed, push my breakfast down my throat, fall into the car, then struggle through traffic so as to arrive at college at 8am and start teaching at 9am. And I don’t have young children anymore. Even my daughter, who is a real writer (a journalist), cannot type a single word until she has got up my grandson, given him his breakfast and taken him to daycare.
I don’t doubt for one moment that the Write Something Every Day advice works for a lot of writers – even though I’ve never been in a position to try it out. Practice makes perfect – sometimes, but not just writing by yourself to yourself, as most of us need to learn from others as well.
Another standard bit of advice is to keep subbing, anyhow, anyway – the scattergun approach – even though there are loads of disheartened wannabe writers out there who have never had anything published. Moreover, entering lots of comps can be very expensive.
This leads into the next pearl of wisdom: read the publications you intend to sub to. Well, yes, but – again – that’s not the whole story, is it? You can read magazines and ezines and longer works until you’re blue in the face but be none the wiser. If you end up thinking, “Well, they take anything really,” you haven’t picked up anything at all. Moreover, you can’t assume that, because the editor has just published something like your writing that he/she will accept your piece. He/she might reject it because it’s too similar to the other story. Although there is an element of luck to what gets accepted and what isn’t, there is more to placing stories than reading: you need to analyse length, points of view, genres, themes, male/female mcs, age of mcs and general philosophy, but the pundits never tell you that.
‘Write about what you know’ is another gem. How boring is that? My life and experiences haven’t been all that interesting. I’m always fascinated, and want to write about, things that are unfamiliar and even exotic.
Moan over. What do other writers think? I’m going to read the newspaper now, before I go to bed in readiness for getting on to the daily grind again tomorrow morning.