I am asked a lot about how to start a writing career— an amusing question to me as my career began so accidentally. I thought I would write after my retirement from a career spent in education. My retirement just happened to come in 2005. Before I had a professional writing career, I had a casual writing hobby– one that was really lit on fire when I completed my MFA in non-fiction and poetry (which I pursued to be a better teacher). I thought I would share some of the advice I give about writing here today and in the coming weeks. So, if you are an aspiring writer, check out the next few Wednesdays for posts on the business of writing.
Today, I am going with general rules for writing:
1. Create a space for your writing. You don’t have to have a room of your own like Virginia Wolff. You just need a space that insinuates you write– to you. Create a folder on your computer for your creative works. Have a candle that you light to signal the beginning, have a file folder of the scrap papers of your reflection. Whatever it is that signifies to you that you are a writer and whatever you need around a space for you to get writing, put those things in place. In my apartment when I was applying for graduate school and then in it, I just had a corner of mybed room with a wooden bedside table and a captain’s chair from Pier One as my writing accoutrements. It was perfect.
2. Read all of the time. Read the type of stuff you want to be writing. Read about the period you will be writing about, read stuff that is totally different. And throw in there some books by writers about their writing. Here are a few that I enjoyed, but there are so many, just get lost in that section of your bookstore and library and pile up:
On Writing by Stephen King
Something to Declare by Julia Alvarez
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Writing to Change the World by Mary Pipher
3. Carry a notebook. Seriously, you never know when inspiration is going to strike you and, because of the way the creative process works, it’s likely going to strike you when you are waiting in the drive through line or something equally inconvenient. You will promise yourself that you will remember that great first sentence or character arc but you won’t. Not without some written help. So carry a notebook and write it down.