I’m working through a list of 10 things I’ve learned about writing. I posted the first five last week, and now I’m going to complete the list. This is by no means everything I’ve learned about the skill and craft of writing. These are just a few things that stood out to me when I thought about it. And they are personal, so that means they may not apply to everyone.
6. Writing on a schedule doesn’t work for me.
Lots of people I know write on a schedule. Now, I’m not talking about a deadline. There’s a difference. A deadline is one date you’ve set that you plan to finish on. A schedule is a recurring time where you sit down and work. I’ve tried this before, and it confuses me more than anything else. My life is such a crazy mess of activity. I run from one place to the next. I never know when I’ll be traveling to cover product installations on Air Force bases or to hospitals or to hotels. I never know when I may end up writing/directing a drama at my church. I just don’t have the ability to be stable in my time, so setting a recurring date where I sit and write just doesn’t work for me. Now, what doeswork for me, is planning days where all I do is write. I can look ahead in my calendar and block out weekends that I will guard jealously. On a really great day where I do nothing but write, I can knock out 35,000 words. But I don’t get days like that all the time. I have to plan for them. Now, if you have the kind of life where you can say you’re going to write every morning from 4am to 6am, go for it.
7. Writing for other people makes me happy.
Something I started doing years ago is writing stories for people as gifts. I’ve done them for wedding presents and for Christmas presents, and there is nothing like it. It’s such a personal gift, and it’s something they can treasure. I love to write for other people. I love to fulfill expectations, but that could be my performance-driven personality speaking. I’m a people pleaser to the core, and I love to write a piece that meets the expectations that people have of it.
8. Writing for myself makes me confident.
I love to make people happy with my writing, but what I’ve learned as I’ve matured is that the best writing I do is when I’m not worrying about what people think. The best writing I do is when I’m writing for me, when I’m writing to myself, about my flaws and failures, my triumphs and successes, my hopes and dreams. So while I do love to write stories for other people, writing for myself helps me establish who I am and what I believe and where I want to go. The best feedback I’ve gotten is on work that I’ve written for me—not for anyone else. That work is representative of who I am, and you can’t help but gain confidence after someone says what you’ve written is moving or touching or great. Granted, if they don’t like what you’ve written, you’re in danger of falling into a deep depression, but that’s a topic for another day!
9. Writing for a reason satisfies me.
But beyond writing for others or even writing for myself, I want to write things that will change the world. That’s how writing with a purpose comes in. I’ve been in the situation where I’ve written something and it has changed the way someone sees God. Or it’s played a role in helping that person come to Christ. Writing for a reason satisfies the need that’s deep, deep in my heart to be useful. Even if what you write is designed to be silly, designed to make people laugh, you’re still writing for a purpose. Yes, writing can be senseless. It can mean nothing. But why? What’s the point? If you’re going to sit at a word processor and bleed on the digital pages, don’t you want it to change the world? Or at least change the way you see the world? You if not one else? Write for a purpose. Find a message and share the truth of it with people. It will give your words depth and lasting value.
10. Writing shouldn’t stop because you don’t feel like writing.
Write something every day, whether you feel like it or not. There is definite truth in stating that you aren’t in the right frame of mind to write a specific type of story, but if you want to be a writer, you have to write. You must write a little every day. A blog post about something funny that happened today. A sketch about a character you want to get to know better. A scene between two characters you already know. Describe your office. Describe your friend. Just write something. The one downside to writing for a living is that when I get home from work, my brain is already exhausted from trying to find creative ways to make plumbing and pipe joining fun (marketable). But I know that about myself. So I try to write a chapter over my lunch break. Or I schedule weekends where I am free. Find what works for you and do it. Get into the habit of writing even when you don’t feel like it. You’ll be glad you did when you finish the last page of your manuscript.