I’m sending off my prose writing class today: it’s odd having two half term classes instead of one. Mostly it feels as if we barely got started and we’re done. I don’t know how much they will take in from our dizzy spin through writing. Maybe nothing. Some will continue writing (probably the same ones who already were before they started the course) and others will not, citing lack of time as the real issue.
People ask me all the time, “How can you write so much?” I don’t really feel as if I write all that much, but I suppose that at this point my long bibliography suggests that I have. Let’s ignore the fact that it took years to build up that list of publications and look at the most recent and I find that yes, I am writing faster and more than I used to do. You can too.
[I feel like I should be talking like Ron Popeil here.]
My basic writing advice has always been what I tell myself: shut up and write. Amazingly good advice that has served me well. If you’re whinging about writing or tweeting or facebooking, you’re not doing the work of writing. Only writing is writing.
What’s that you say? “You seem to be on social media 24/7, Kate. What’s up with that?”
Yes, it seems that way sometimes, but the truth is I spend less time on social media than the average person spends watching television. I don’t really watch television. The key is timing — and choices. And the other groovy thing? I try out writing ideas on social media and cannibalise what I’ve used.
[Except for the super long fainting goats discussion: haven’t found a way to use that yet, but I will. Oh, yes — I will!]
So what’s the real key? Write and don’t stop.
Do you realise how much time people lose faffing about second-guessing their writing efforts? Doubting, revising, deleting, rethinking. Don’t. Write it, finish it, let it set for a while. Then go back and give it a critical eye. Look at what works and doesn’t. Set aside your ego if you think everything you write is gold — set aside your self doubt if you think everything you write is dreck: you’re both wrong. It’s just a story you’re making up. It’s not a matter of life and death; if you’re writing, that’s a good thing because creation is a great joy. There’s another pay off.
The more you write, the better you get.
Agonising over every word is not what makes you a better writer. It’s practice, practice, practice. The more you give free rein to the creative part of the brain, the better and faster and more consistently it will run. Be playful, be fearless — write crap! We’ve all got loads of it in us. But write, then revise, and then send it off. Because someone out there is waiting for your words. You just have to find them. But in the mean time, love writing. It’s a great way to live.
This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘not at this address.’ Just keep looking for the right address. ~ Barbara Kingsolver
[The original version of this appeared at A Knife & A Quill]