Because I just read a rather brilliant blog post by Jessica Bell, I want to say something that's been on my mind for a while.
This is about writing fiction, and about the writing attitude, so everyone who wants to learn what I'll cook for dinner today should go and do something more fun.
There's something about writing, about being a writer, that is different, special.
We are curious. We want to know, and we want to watch. We're the voyeurs who stare at other people in restaurants, on the subway, in the waiting area of an airport before boarding, in hospital or doctor's waiting rooms. We watch everything. We watch how strangers interact, how they talk, walk, and how they think.
We stare at trees; at flowers, at grass, at birds and cats. We listen to sounds; and we memorize them, and the way they seemed to us. We register smells, and the moment we do, we try to name them, describe their qualities, make them come alive.
We lie awake at night and mumble the conversations of our characters into the darkness, and when we wake up in the morning, the words are gone, but the feeling is still there.
Everything, everything we see, experience, witness, everything is research, fodder for our imagination.
You can recognize a writer by the way they stand and watch (and in my case, look like an idiot).
You can recognize a writer by the way they suddenly break off in a conversation, how they fall silent and go elsewhere with their minds: they've felt the spark. Maybe it was something someone said, or the way that someone tilted their head, or smiled, or pulled at their socks.
It can be anything.
So here's what I'm trying to say.
Don't rely on writing manuals. Don't rely on agents' or publishers' "how to" posts.
Admittedly, they are helpful. But consider them as crutches, as something to lean on while you go your own writing way.
Your writing should be bold, unique, it should express something no one else can express.
You are that new voice, the one voice that shines through even in a chorus of a million.
Get rid of those journals and manuals. Dare to take those steps onto that rickety rope bridge that means being a writer, and dare to fall.
But if you do, and you mean it with the writing, crawl up that mountain and try again.
There are no rules in writing. There is no right or wrong. There's only one way: your own.
So this is what I wish for you:
- Be fearless.
- Don't try to write like someone else. Comparing writers to each other is like comparing apples to cherries. There is no "alike".
- This is not a competition! We aren't sitting in the same office, waiting for a promotion, and get angry or sour if someone else gets it before us. Find your own path, and be generous with your praise if someone else gets that book deal before you. It wasn't meant for you. Yours is still waiting for you to finish that book!
- Love what you do.
- Never apologize for wanting to be a writer. If you've come this far, you should know that it's meant to be. This is a part of you. Don't deny it.
So there. This is my early Christmas wish list for all of you who want to be writers.
Oh –and if you want to know which article I was reading right now, here's the link:
This post is featured on C.S. Lakin's blog Live Write Thrive
PS: dinner tonight is Red Thai Curry with chicken. ;)