What truly is important? The question is different for everyone. You have to look at your life and determine if what you are spending your time on is something that will make you happy, a better person, more fulfilled, or any number of things. These are the things that are important to you. What is important to you may not be important to the next person and that is where conflict might come in. As a writer, conflict is a big part of what I do. I love to toss characters into the pool and see if they sink or swim. Can the character even swim? Once in the pool what if there is a shark lurking in the depths. If the shark isn’t hungry it’s going to be a very short story. Don’t like sharks? How about a hurricane? You get the point. Writing fiction is about complications. What happens next? If you’re a story geek like I am, this is very important. Writing non-fiction has its own challenges, but that is a topic for some other time.
Dwight V. Swain said, “A story is the triumph of ego over the fear of failure.” But wait a minute. Isn’t ego bad? I don’t want to be “stuck up” (boy, I’m dating myself with that one, aren’t I?) Most everyone associates egotistical negatively. Man that guy/gal is SO egotistical. For some it can be as simple as self-interest. I don’t mean in the Narcissus way. If you take time to do the things that you want to do you WILL run into resistance. If it doesn’t come from outside, it will come from inside. A friend comes to you with something that just has to be done now. This is not doing the dishes or the laundry or any of the normal life maintenance stuff. This is also not the type of life-changing stuff that happens sometimes, like cancer or an automobile accident or loss of job. That stuff happens too, so give yourself a break if the major stuff happens. I’m talking about the minor resistances. All of a sudden, out of the blue stuff that just appears to have to be done right now. Do you, or your friends/family/coworkers/fill-in-someone, come up with emergencies when you take time for yourself? Mine do, I even do it to myself sometimes. Don’t get me wrong. I love all my resistors. But I have had to learn to say no. It is amazing how clear things become when you realize what your priorities are and make time for them. When I did, all this random stuff came piling out of nowhere that just had to be done and done NOW. I hate to say it, but I had to schedule it. It was starting to become a “me versus you” scenario. So I just had to take a block of time out of my schedule (literally I had to put it ON my calendar) to make time for me. Then I sit down and write. How did I schedule an emergency? Phone rings, “Well, you need me to do X? How about tomorrow afternoon at 1:00?” See, that time is not my me time and I can use it for others, emergency or not. I have found that unless there is something specific looming, like tax day, most people are ok with having a specific time and place where you are dealing with what is bothering them. Tomorrow doesn’t work? Ok, when are you available? And I pick a time that is definitely not in my me time. Does it always work? No, but most usually it does. Try it. I can finally say that I have my own self-interests at heart. And you know what, over time it became easier to make that work for me. If I have become egotistical, well, I can live with that.
Did you know there are a ton of sites out there in the Interweb that are all about writing? And who am I who has the temerity to actually think about starting another one? There are lists of do’s and don’ts, how-tos, and just about anything that you can think of. Some sites are really good and resonate with a lot of people, John Scalzi’s Whatever and Patricia C. Wrede’s Blog are two that immediately come to mind. They aren’t always just about writing. That is the beauty of life, writing and the fluid nature of the Interweb. But there is one thing that I have noticed about all sites about writing. I bet if you sit and think about it for a minute, you’ll come to the same conclusion that I have. They all have one major key to success. There isn’t any great big huge secret out there that will make you a good writer. There isn’t a trick or a tip that will make it all just suddenly happen. The big, huge, absolutely enormous secret to writing? WRITE.
Some sites say write what you know. Some say write from the heart. Some say write to make people think. Getting the picture here? To be a writer . . . Write.
Do I have anything more to say than the next person? Probably not. There are a lot of people out there that are much smarter than I am. They know a lot more about some things that I would have ever believed possible. As people we all have value, talent and something unique that makes us who we are. The thing that makes some people go out there and do things, take risks, make mistakes, and by golly, keep growing as people is what makes them interesting. All this to say, if you want to be a writer, then BE a writer. You know what to do. Now do it.