I met up with my friend, the talented artist, Karen Thomas, last week. Among many other things, we discussed success. What differentiates people from wanting to write or paint and actually doing it?
The answer is really very simple but it is damned hard work: maintaining focus, continued desire to learn and improve, never assuming you are good enough and putting in consistent time and effort to do the best you can. Underpinning all that is a serious, inexplicable, masochistic desire to get your work on paper.
Karen is a brilliant role model for putting in time and effort. She seems indefatigable. She is not distracted from her aim, her desire to paint, her art. I am readily distracted unless I have a deadline, then I am focused to the point where my poor body aches!
There is this notion that art and writing are innate talents which some have and others can only aspire to. This is rot! I have a book on writing by Stephen King, who offers some tips on becoming a great writer. Let’s aspire and to achieve that aspiration, keep working at it.
He says, give up on television and read as much as you can for you need to eliminate distractions. Writing is very personal, very private, very intimate. It is not a social event. TV, by contrast, is just a waste of time, a distraction.
It’s that old adage of reading a lot and also writing a lot.
Remain positive because plenty of people will gladly tell you how useless your writing is. Hear the criticism, listen if it is constructive, and rework; otherwise, rise above it. What do they know? Have they written a successful book?
Don’t be a people pleaser, write for yourself. Write about things that you find hard; do it raw, don’t be pretentious, but pay attention to paragraphs and grammar. There’s loads of other more technical advice you can learn at writing groups, but the upshot is: just get on with it.
The joy is in the writing.
If the joy is in the glory of telling people you’re an author, think again; most authors have 10 seconds of glory if that.
Think about why you want to write. Then just do it.
If you are having to persuade family and friends to buy your book, write nice reviews and generally big you up, then you are probably in the wrong job.