When does somebody take the leap from “non-author” into authorship? Is there some finish line to that journey, and if so, is it relatively quick like a hundred-meter sprint or is it a long arduous run similar to a marathon? Can you ever revert your author status once you have it?
And finally, are you an author?
Big questions, right? Well, I have a simple answer that I believe, followed by a long road of reasoning to hopefully justify myself.
If you think you’re an author, you’re an author.
Please read on for the justification, since some days really do let me feel like an ✨author✨ while some other days have me feeling like a slug.
We writers are known for being hard on ourselves. Sure, anybody can put words on the page, but as writers, we put a larger burden on ourselves to make sure those words are as meaningful as possible. In many cases, that meaning has to be mined out slowly, over time. And sometimes, that meaning is hard to confront.
The public perception of a writer can seem glamourous. Who wouldn’t want to travel around the world to reading events and interviews? Surely the life of a writer involves meeting celebrities (while also being a celebrity), basking in attention from readers at every step?
Of course, we know the truth is less exciting.
A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
Writing is hard work. Sometimes, for those who do the work and are lucky enough to find an audience, the scenario above can come true. For the rest of us, writing is a deeply personal process full of profound highs and lows.
With all of the work, all of the toil, all of the personal sacrifice, and all of the risk of putting one’s thoughts and words into the world, it’s so, so important to remember to take care of yourself.
Writing, as a largely solitary activity, often demands long hours by yourself. Without taking the time to check in, it’s dangerously easy to lose track of your own self-care.
The importance of physical fitness in other sedentary activities, such as chess, poker, or e-sports, is becoming obvious. In addition to the clear physical benefits, getting up and moving can help your mind by stimulating blood flow and boosting creativity by changing your environment. Your body, like your mind, is a tool that needs cultivating.
Note that this doesn’t mean you should be lifting weights five to seven times a week. Getting outside for some fresh air for a few minutes each day is a wonderful start.
And if you’d like some inspiration, here are some articles about others who have taken those initial steps and found more value than they initially expected.
Burnout is a dangerous problem for those of us who push themselves too hard from time to time. If you’re working too hard and showing signs of physical or mental exhaustion, consider taking a step back and reflecting. You might do better work after rewarding yourself with a short break. Recharge that battery and help yourself at the same time.
Be kind to yourself
Every writer is different. Your writing is important because it’s yours. We all produce at different rates, with different degrees of quality along many different measurements. If we all had the same output, the world would be a boring place.
If you find you’re feeling down, consider taking a step back and reframing your expectations to be realistic. Published books aren’t first drafts, so our first drafts won’t read like our favourite books (yet!). Full-time authors have large blocks of time available to produce words, while part-timers like many of us have to eke out minutes when we can find them (but those words that we do create couldn’t have come from anybody else!).
All we can do is our best, and thank goodness for that. The world is a better and more enriched place because you’re in it.
Don’t dull your aspirations though, if you find they’re helpful! Being realistic doesn’t mean being hard on yourself. Everybody has hard days, and it’s important to remember that we all need support sometimes. Take the time you need to be healthy.
Ask for help when needed
While writing can be an intensely personal activity, don’t forget that there are people who can act as a support network at any level you need. Whether you’d benefit from an early reader, or if you just need a friend to support you through a rough patch, don’t forget to keep your social connections close.
If you’re finding that things are still hard to deal with, don’t be afraid to seek professional treatment from health professionals. Mental or physical illness are no joke. The stigma around disclosure is starting to fade, and if you’re apprehensive, you may be comforted to know that therapy (in any number of forms) is growing more common. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you think this might be helpful. Writing might be lonely, but life doesn’t have to be. 🧡
Have you ever written a scene that you know is full of potential but is somehow lacking excitement? A scene where interesting characters are in an interesting setting, but somehow aren’t interesting enough to carry your attention forward?
Let’s face it–most events in a regular day aren’t worth writing a story about. Sure, we all have interesting conversations from time to time, and we all certainly have moments in our lives that are story-worthy. However, from your reader’s perspective, each scene in a story needs to be compelling. A scene that isn’t compelling is a reason for your reader to stop and find another story by somebody else. Ouch.
How do we make sure a scene has so much conflict and tension that your reader has no choice but to stick around and find out what happens?
There are plenty of books, essays, posts, and general social media reflections on carving out time for writing. Fighting for a spare moment to craft some words when life has other plans. With social lives, families, careers, and even sleep, how can a writer make time to actually write?
And with that in mind, how can we actually be sure that carving out time is a worthwhile thing to do? If writing was so important in our lives, wouldn’t be have already made the time we need? (Not necessarily, as I suspect most writers with busy schedules would argue!)
In this busy world of ours, how can somebody who wants to make more time available for writing actually make writing a priority in their life?
Yes, it’s November, and that means another NaNoWriMo is here again!
NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is an annual event where writers from around the globe get together to produce a novel’s worth of output in a single month. Since everybody works through this challenge as a group, there’s a baked-in support network. There are regional groups and meetups too, so you’ll always have others who can help you through the marathon.
Why take part? If you complete the challenge, you have fifty-thousand words! What happens if you fail? Nothing, really! Let’s say you only (note the emphasis on only) manage thirty-thousand words, you’re still thirty-thousand words ahead of where you were in October, right? Same deal if you “only” write ten-thousand, five-thousand, or even one hundred words.
And what if the words don’t feel right? Consider this an exercise in speed writing combined with an introduction to a vibrant and fun community of like-minded people.
NaNoWriMo isn’t for everybody, but it might be just the thing you need to get moving on that big project you’ve been procrastinating.
If this is something you’re interested in, here are three great books that can help you reach the finish line. And they’re all affiliate free, so we’re not trying to make any money off these sales–these are genuine recommendations.
Sometimes writing comes easily. When characters are believable, motivated, and fun, they can seem to act on their own. This remarkable phase of writing leads to astronomical daily word counts as your characters navigate the challenges you’ve set up for them.
When things are going well, writing seems easy.
However, what happens when your characters have had a slew of adventures and found themselves tied up in the mess of consequences? They’ve created a bunch of problems, often in fun and unexpected ways, and now it’s on the author to figure out how to build a world that will let them close everything out in a way that’s satisfying for your readers.
So how do you get through this writer’s block and find an ending that will satisfy everybody? What do you do when the first 90% of the story came quickly but you’re left with the final–and arguably most important–10%?
Stories should start in the middle of the action, right? You’ve probably heard that advice over and over again, in a number of different forms. Start strong, don’t let your characters dawdle around, give your readers something active to start with, and so on.
So is this always the best approach? Should you ever start your stories slowly, building up to the action later on? Or is it always correct to start trapped in the middle of a gunfight?
Just like writing, there are no hard rules here, despite what you might have heard. And writing, like life, is full of trade-offs.
Some stories will benefit tremendously from an introduction that’s fast-paced and full of action. Others need a gentle hand, one that guides the characters away from action, but not out of tension.
Can you think of a great hero who is made greater because of a villain who counters them perfectly?
Batman is at his most iconic when he’s facing the Joker. When Loki gets out of line, it’s Thor who has to be at the top of his game. And Harry Potter might have lived a relatively normal life without Voldemort causing trouble.
Sherlock Holmes has Moriarty. Ripley has an infestation of aliens. Luke Skywalker versus Darth Vader. Ariel versus Ursula.
However you choose to define a hero, you can often find an antagonist who has the exact set of qualities needed to make the hero who they are.
If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.
Starting a new writing project is exciting. Perhaps the idea has been stewing in your brain for weeks or months, or maybe it erupted from your head like Athena.
New writing projects come with lots of unanswered questions. Who should the main character be? What are the world’s rules? Should you write in first person, third person, or should you take a more experimental approach?
What about more subtle concerns, like the font size or the formatting? Should you write this project in a format designed for your agent, whether you have one or not? Is it better to plan for a self-published story and to save time now by setting up your document as close to the final formatted version as possible?
Most writers should consider the first draft as a place to think more about the story and less about the presentation. Develop your character, your setting, your plot, and give yourself all sorts of room to explore your new world. Forget about page margins and font sizes for now.