Writing advice is easy to find — it’s all over the Internet. Don’t use adverbs. Don’tstarta book with the weather. Don’t check you email while you’re trying to write a novel. It goes on and on. But once in a while, I come across some practical advice from an accomplished writer that really rouses and encourages me. That’s how I felt when my wonderful sister Stephanie sent me a link on writing that included some tips from her website offered by J.K. Rowling.
Her intro: “I haven’t got 10 rules that guarantee success, though I promise I’d share them if I did … The truth is that I found success by stumbling off alone in a direction most people thought was a dead end, breaking all the 1990s shibboleths about children’s books in the process.”
Rowling then goes on to list some of the strengths writers need: discipline, resilience, humility, courage, independence, and a voracious desire to read. Let’s unpack these briefly:
Discipline: “Orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior: self-control.” That’s how my Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines this quality. It comes down to intention and the systematic pursuit of a goal. Some people balk at the word, but consider it’s opposite: chaos.
Resilience: As creatives, we know all about staying power. Rejection has to become our friend, not our enemy. Instead of making us slink away, we have to push forward, keep going, and fight through those “I quit!” feelings, which are just that — feelings.
Humility: This is another word that often gets a bum rap. Many people associate it with meekness and timidity. Those are one aspect of the word, but it also means much more: a kind of innocence, a willingness to learn, a sense that you don’t have all the answers.
Courage: Maya Angelou has said that courage is the thing you need most as a writer and Winston Churchill felt it was the core quality from which all others flow. I like General Patton’s definition: “Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.”
Independence: The strength to write what we want to write. To do the best job we can without worrying about what other people have done or what they’ll think. The drive to tell our own stories in our own unique ways. Without this, nothing original happens.
A voracious desire to read: As Rowling says so well: “You can’t be a good writer without being a devoted reader.” To hone our craft, to improve our work, we need to read with an eye toward learning and growing.
Here’s the most wonderful thing about this list of qualities a writer needs: They are all available to us at any time. They are inner strengths we can bring to fruition all on our own. We don’t need a special degree or contacts or to attend scores of workshops. How fantastic is that!
For J.K. Rowling’s full discussion, visit: https://www.jkrowling.com/opinions/on-writing/
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