Friday, March 06, 2015

Don't Wait for the Mood to Strike to Write!

Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains ChristianWriters Conference and the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy. She’s also the Military Family Blogger at Guideposts. Com, Social Media Director for SouthernWriters Magazine and the Senior Editor for Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook. Don't miss her new book from Worthy Inspired, coming in May WHILE MY SOLDIER SERVES.
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Tips to Become a Working Writer

A lot of writers begin writing because that's the
way they process the world around them.
I began writing like a lot of you did—as a creative outlet—a way to process the world around me. 

I kept diaries, started stories and books, played around with articles. But all of these efforts had one thing in common. They were written out of my own emotional overflow. When that overflow dried up, so did the words.

Fast forward many years, to one of my first professional jobs. I worked as technical writer, composing instructions for a publishing company. Again, I got to work with words, but this time they were precise. My goal was plain, visual words that would allow someone to follow directions to an end result. There wasn’t any emotion involved, except for the thrill I got from managing words.

Now skip ahead again a few years, once I got my kids to a manageable age. I had a driving ambition to make writing my full-time position. But I wanted more than a position writing instructions. I wanted the emotion back in my words. So I turned to fiction as my artistic outlet, and used freelance writing for my bread-and-butter writing.

This was when I hit a wall. I couldn’t figure out how to get the emotion in my writing unless I was in the mood to write. How did professional writers do that? The question left me stumped, and I began to research how working writers churned out all those beautiful words, no matter what was happening around them.

They had learned the secret of getting past writing only when they were in the mood, and into the discipline of writing whether they felt like it or not.

Wow. That seemed an awful lot like work, as opposed to art.

And that simple revelation is the foundation that all working writers build on. We write when we feel like it and we write when we don’t.

It’s both that simple and that difficult.

And it takes some practice. So here are a few tips to help you move forward if you find yourself not in the mood to write.

Learn to write on a schedule.
1. Write on a Schedule. You’ll read a lot of advice that says you must write every day. I think that’s good, if it’s an option. But for some it just isn’t. But what you can do is schedule your writing. This will build your writing muscles so they don’t fail you when you need them most.

2. Write in a lot of different disciplines. Don’t just stick with fiction or articles or essays. Force yourself to try new things. What you learn will prove invaluable, no matter what your writing focus becomes.

3. Find a Writing Group or Partner. I know it’s scary, but it’s necessary if you want to move ahead. Getting honest critique can help you with a lot of things.
First, it gives you some much needed perspective. Writers have two opinions about their writing—it’s either genius or it sucks. And these two extremes are almost always false.
Second, it forces you to improve. No one likes to hear what they’ve done wrong, but that’s one of the most important things we need to grow as writer.
Third, it makes us brave. If your goal is to become a working writer you need to be querying and submitting. This is the first step.

4. Set Some Goals. I used to resist setting goals. I’m much more of a go-with-the-creative-flow type person. But after five years of spinning my wheels I finally gave in. When I did my career took off.

Send in regular submissions.
5. Send Regular Submissions. When I first started as a working writer, my rejections outnumbered my acceptances about nine to one. Getting that many rejections between acceptances is depressing, at leas for me. So I turned the process upside down. I began setting goals for the number of rejections I got each month. To reach that goal, I had to send out submissions. So I turned a defeat into victory.

6. Invest in Your Writing. Yes, money is part of that, but it’s not all I’m talking about. Spend time reading writing books, writing blogs, attending workshops and classes, and going to conferences. Chances are most of you are like me, and going back to college for a creative writing degree isn’t really an option. Learning on your own will become college. You’ll get a practical education that will stand you in good stead as you navigate the path to working writer.

These are the things I’ve done to move from wanna-be to working writer. What has helped you?


Ane Mulligan said...

You never forget to give helpful tips, Edie. LOVE this post. You've helped me learn to prioritize. Between you and Patty Smith Hall keeping me accountable, I'm turning out the word count.

Sally Shupe said...

This is a great post! Things that have helped me is being a part of ACFW and the course loops, finding an accountability partner, starting an ACFW writers' group in our area, and setting a schedule to write or getting into a routine of writing.

Lillian Humphries said...

Thanks Edie. Just what I needed to hear. Sit in front of the computer and let the words flow. I always find that I sit there for a while just typing stuff, then all of a sudden it starts flowing. Thanks for the good words.

Janice L. Dick said...

Another inspiring and encouraging post, Edie. Thank you.

Ben said...

I needed to hear this right now. Thank you!