Here are the biggest lessons I've learned about the craft of writing...so far...
#1 - Writers Write Every Day
But I knew she was right, so I took it to heart. I ramped it up, inspired by concepts like Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours theory from Outliersand Jerry Seinfeld's "Chain" worksheet.
Now, I definitely write every day. It's why I've been able to complete ten TV scripts, countless pitches, short stories, and copywriting assignments, and tens of thousands of words on two novels in the last seven years. All while keeping this blog pseudo-updated, of course.
Even if I'm just journaling my anxieties or beating out ideas on my Notes app while getting my oil changed, I write every day.
It takes discipline and commitment, but you must do it if you want to call yourself a writer. The more you write, the more you learn, and the faster you'll get better at it.
#2 - There's No Such Thing as Writer's Block
I never let myself off the hook by saying I have "writer's block."
And if I get stuck on a character beat or a scene that's not working, I open my brainstorming notebook and start writing through it. It usually looks something like this --
Works every time and never takes me that long. Try it for yourself!"Ugh, this character doesn't work! He's too damn passive. He should be driving the action more. Maybe he can be up for a promotion? No, that's dumb. Why would he care? Oh! What if his father is the one who was killed at the beginning?! That will drive him to push her to catch the killer! Done!"
#3 - Your Inner Critic is a Persistent Jerk
Here's the unfortunate truth - your inner critic never goes away. That nagging self-talk comes with the territory. Writers just learn not to listen to it. (And to lock up the expensive wine.)
My inner critic likes to show up after I've had a light day of writing. It crinkles its nose and shouts, "This crap is all you came up with yesterday?! And you call yourself a writer?! You'll never be Kazuo Ishiguro!!"
My inner critic is very specific.
I've learned not to let him get me down. If he's being especially annoying, I'll open a notebook and let him rant until there are no words of doubt left to spew. Then, I start writing.
#4 - Don't Be Precious About Anything
The creative process is all about flow and allowance. If you hang on tightly to that plot point or character trait and try writing around the rest of your story to make that favorite idea work, you're not in the flow. You're creating dams that will make your piece disjointed and inauthentic.
I've cut many wonderful moments, plot twists, and lines of dialogue out of scripts because they just weren't working. Once I removed the main character who inspired the whole pilot idea in the first place! But it was okay - an amalgam of him returned in a short story a few years later.
So be prepared to let your creative "babies" go. If they're really that genius, they'll come back to you later when the time is right.
#5 - Writers Are The Most Fantastic People Ever
empathy for writer problems and are the first to tell you that you can finish that script/novel/play.
Being in a community of writers has been an incredible blessing in my life. My writer friends share advice about the biz and the craft, listen when I need to vent, offer sounding boards for my ideas, and help me succeed. And I'm always happy to do the same for them.
Because we know jealousy and competition are pointless wastes of our creative time and energy.
Ask ten writers to write a story about a cat and mouse and you'll get ten beautifully different pieces. Which piece is the best is a subjective question with an answer that doesn't really matter. All we care about is writing a story that's better than the last one we wrote.
So don't hesitate to expand your circle of writer friends. We're good people.
(Oh, and writers are also the best drinking companions. There's nothing better than happy hour drinks after seeing the concept of your last pilot get sold to HBO!)