“Inspiration usually comes during work, not before it.”
Wherever we are on our writing journeys, we need a winning attitude — a mindset that will help us improve our craft. Just recently, I read an online article called, “5 Differences Between Professional and Amateur Novelists” by Charles Finch that really made me stop and think. Charles is the author of seven historical mysteries; his newest book, The Last Enchantments (love that title!) is a coming-of-age story set in Oxford. After struggling for years to find his place in the world as a writer, Charles believes that there are five areas that we as writers and aspiring writers need to come to terms with if we are going to pursue our craft with purposeful dedication:
1) Tools: While many of us are fascinated by the source of a writer’s inspiration, seasoned writers know that “it has to come from within.” On the other hand, tips and ideas about “process” — practical, workaday tools and strategies” — can be helpful, to a degree. But, as Charles puts it, “The less time you spend thinking about how you write, the more time you spend thinking about what you’re writing.”
2) Patience: Amateurs are in a hurry to get results; seasoned writers are willing to put in the time it takes to let their work develop. As Charles observes, “… the single greatest ally we have is time. There’s no page of prose in existence that its author can’t improve after it’s been in a drawer for a week.”
3) Focus: While it can be satisfying to switch from writing a novel to writing a book review, Charles sees many writers scattering their energy in so many different directions that they never finish any one project. It may be better to focus on one area or a handful than to have too many irons in the fire.
4) Habit: Having a structured, consistent way of working can be a solid foundation for your writing: “The more consistent your habits are – and this ties into having your tools nailed down – the more secure your brain will be to run free and create.”
5) Practice: Writing is like any other skill: the more you practice, the more you’ll improve. Here, Charles has some comforting words of practical advice: “There’s more mystical nonsense written about the process of writing than almost anything. Inspiration, genius, “the muse.” So I want to lay out one huge, comforting, wonderful fact: the more you write, the better you get at it. Writing is like a forehand or driving a car or playing guitar. Practice makes you better.” The message: If we want to be better writers, we need to write on!