In writing about this challenge, I’ve decided to address all of the challenges but in a slightly different order than what Goins had listed. After you have started to build your writing (stealing and starting), I feel it is important to keep yourself organized and decluttered. You need a game plan. Until you come up with a way to keep yourself writing and accountable you won’t take yourself seriously as a writer. Every great writer knows the same. As Ray Bradbury says,
“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”
The problem is finding the discipline to write in spite of or in addition to our already hectic lives can be problematic. So to make writing a priority, you have to come up with a plan. First is to declutter your writing space—if you have a writing space. If you don’t, you should set aside a space for yourself. I have found that when you have a designated space it becomes sacred. That’s the reason why “man caves” are such a popular concept. You don’t mess with a man in his man cave or a person crafting dinner in the kitchen. That is their space for whatever craft they are producing (or not producing). Writers need space too. Find a space, keep it sacred.
Then make a plan for how you are going to write seriously and stick to it. During the past year, I realized that if I was truly going to claim the title I would have to make writing more of a priority in my life. The difference between writing being a hobby and being an occupation is the amount of time, effort, and dedication you give to it. Isn’t that true of sports? Your sport can be a pastime or you can “go pro”. Of course, going pro means you get paid for your work, which is the ultimate goal of any writer, but to do such a thing you have to put in the conditioning hours first like any athlete would. So you make a plan. The key is to make your plan realistic.
I decided to make my plan 250 words per day and to model it after the “magic spreadsheet” concept I discovered online. I am not a part of a community with the magic spreadsheet as I found recording it on a shared spreadsheet to be a little over my digital capacity/skill-set, but I created my own and I keep track of my “points” and I post it on my website so my followers and supporters can keep me accountable. And they ask me about it constantly, especially my close friends. This plan and accountability step has been crucial this past year in my success as a writer. The more I write, the more I produce and the more I continue to grow as a writer.
Only then can I work on de-cluttering my writing, which is all a part of the editing process. Less is more. Wordy does not mean “smart” a lesson I have to teach my students over and over again every year—a lesson I have to learn over and over again as I continue to write. I start with my goal of reaching certain word counts, then I polish and declutter it as I edit.
Connect, Share, and Publish
Once my own goals are established and I have my plans in place, then my confidence begins to build. Harper Lee once said,
“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”
And every knows why she would advise all writers in this way. Developing confidence is one way to develop the “thick hide”. Does that mean your confidence cannot shatter; of course not, but it does ensure that you have a leg to stand on as you face criticism. It also helps as you start putting yourself out there more and more, which is why connecting with others and networking is also a vital part of the process. Other writers not only help you develop as a writer, they are your support system. Without this support, you are not likely to succeed. I went out in my community and looked for support wherever I could find it. In Winston, there is a wonderful group—The Winston Salem Writers (http://wswriters.org/). They develop workshops, critique groups, outings, contests, and all sorts of places and events for writers to connect on multiple levels. Joining the group is a worthwhile investment for a number of reasons, not the least of which is to help you connect to a local group of artists. During the 1920s, the Harlem Renaissance flourished and developed not because of the vast amount of creativity and genius that flowed from the African American writers, poets, and artists. Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and a multitude of others emerged and were heard because they came together as a community and supported one another. They connected, they collaborated, and they supported each other; as a result the human race was able to receive beautiful new additions to our literary history that might have remained buried in obscurity otherwise. Artists should always learn from the past and continue to thrive with each other’s help.