My advice to new writers just starting out is to find a way to keep going forward. Try to write more days than not because, as a writer, you are like a musician who needs to practice and hone her skills. If you miss a day of writing, or a week of writing or an entire month of writing, find your way back, and do so without “guilting” yourself. I think the best thing we can do as writers or would-be-writers is find our way to kindness. Writing is no fun at all, if it’s infused by guilt. So, if you haven’t been writing, why not praise yourself for finding your way back to your desk, or favorite table or notepad. Praise yourself for sticking to it. In the end, it’s about the practice of coming back to the work as much as anything else. Craft will come with practice and learning to write most days than not comes with practice as well. If it comes to be a huge problem that you’re not writing most days than not, consider signing up for a class, whether online or a community college, or wherever.
And so you know, I speak as someone who’s been there! I wanted to write—desperately—when I was younger, but my self-esteem was the size of a gnat, and every time I sat down to write--if I sat down at all--I spent most of the time beating myself up. Writing, naturally, became a chore, and torturous. But I wanted to write! I kept a journal religiously and read all the time. I guess you can say I forced myself to write by taking classes and workshops. While an undergraduate, I’d sign up for creative writing classes. After I graduated, I stopped writing completely until I signed up for a class at the local community college. I would always wait until the very last second to write a story that was due, but I found signing up for a class helped me to stick with it.
I continued to procrastinate through my MFA program. I never started a story until the last minute, but I managed to graduate. I’m not sure when it hit me that there was no way I could write novels if I only wrote sporadically and if beat myself up through the entire process, so I basically told myself—No more guilt, no more shame around writing. If I wrote for twenty minutes, terrific. If I wrote for an hour, terrific.
Find the time for yourself to “practice.” Find a way to make the process of sitting and facing your fears every day enjoyable. I know it might sound nuts, but it’s such a long haul, the sooner you learn to become your own cheerleader and best friend, the better.
Piper Nelson is stuck. She can’t quite stay away from the husband she divorced. She isn’t always attentive to the high school students she teaches. And even she admits that she’s been drinking too much and seeking out unsuitable men. Piper’s mother, married to a celebrity evangelist, and her sister, who’s immersed in plans to wed a professional football player and star in a reality TV show, are both too self-absorbed to sympathize with Piper’s angst. They tell her to get a grip. But how can Piper ever really recover from the blow she suffered five years ago, when a car accident took the life of her young daughter?
When Piper’s ex-husband announces that his new girlfriend is pregnant, Piper is forced to take stock. Realizing that it’s time for a change is one thing, but actually making it happen is quite another. And despite what she thinks, Piper can’t do it alone. Lucky for her, a couple of crazy, funny new friends are ready to step in when she needs them most and show her how to live and laugh again.
Renee Swindle is the author of Shake Down The Stars (NAL/Penguin) available now.
Her first novel, Please Please Please, was published by the Dial Press/Dell. Please Please Please was also published in Germany as Mehr Mehr Mehr and published in Japan. Please Please Please was an Essence Magazine bestseller.
Renee Swindle earned her BA from UC Irvine and MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University. She lives in Oakland, California
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