Writers are inundated with advice on how to claw their way to the top of their game. Some experts claim all you need is a strong network; others trumpet the efficacy of their super-secret, extra-special, for one low-low price writing system that’s sure to propel you to authordom faster than a speeding bullet. Our egos take a beating when we’re told we’re not “real” writers unless we get out of bed every morning, pen in hand, eager to write away every minute of the day, or that “real artists don’t starve” when, in fact, we haven’t gotten a paycheck from our craft for some time, despite following everyone’s well-meaning systems, guidelines, and self-help books to the letter. Ergo, we sadly conclude we’re not real artists and we put our tools away, defeated.
What’s a beaten-down writer to do? Lucky for you, I have the answer.
Huh? Be average? In this overcrowded publishing industry, shouldn’t I try to stand out, be a cut above, blaze a new trail?
Well, no. And yes.
Let me explain. There is a crap-ton of information out there from every conceivable source out there on how to write, market, publish, and promote. And each system varies wildly in technique and application. It’s confusing at best; at its worst, trying to traipse down five paths simultaneously will send your head spinning and produce erratic and substandard results anyway.
Instead, concentrate on staying the course. Write as much as you can, every day if you can. So what if you wake up one morning and cringe at the thought of having to write a sentence?That doesn’t mean you’re not a ‘real’ writer. It means you’re human. And best of all, it proves you’re a creative human that craves diversity and variety rather than the same old drudgery every day.
Don’t concentrate on being a stellar writer — just focus on being a writer, period. Once you’ve got that down, your star will begin to rise on its own with less effort than you imagined. Let me share an adage a college professor gave our class. It’s my gift to you, some of the best advice I’ve ever heard:
If at first you don’t succeed, keep on sucking till you do succeed.
Okay, it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, I’ll admit, but it’s sound advice nonetheless. It means don’t sweat the bells-and-whistles. Concentrate on the basics. The basics are the framework and foundation for excellence. If you haven’t mastered mediocrity, you’ll never master excellence. Too many writers, goaded by the bons mots of pushy writing gurus, skip this most important step and fall short of their goals because of it.
For now, ignore the expert chatter. If you have time to spend and effort to expend, you have all you need to succeed. So practice. Don’t worry about being eclipsing other writers’ acheivements. Don’t worry about being a best-seller. Just be a writer.