Made To Be Broken

I just stumbled across this excellent article, inspired by Elmore Leonard’s top 10 rules for writers. Authors like Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, PD James, and more weigh in on how to keep the creative spark burning bright in the face of procrastination, obsession, addiction, and a whole host of other distractions.

I’ve been writing long enough now to feel confident adding in a few of my own tips:

  1. Go With Your Gut
    • If it feels “wrong” on any level, axe it. You’ll know when you’ve nailed your story or concept.
  2. You’re The Boss
    • The best writers will seek out help – in the form of critique groups, freelance editors, alpha and beta readers, or other sources of constructive criticism which should help the work “be all that it can be.” But you’re ultimately the author, and it’s your responsibility to own the final product.
    • Neil Gaiman sums this up best in the article above, when he says: “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”
  3. Get Lost
    • And I don’t mean the TV show (though it’s an excellent time-waster if you need one). Take your dog for a walk, get away from your normal routine, get outside of your comfort zone. And pay attention to what’s happening around you – and inside your head – when it happens.
  4. Just Do It
    • Talking about writing … isn’t writing. Wanting to be an author … won’t make you one. Sometimes you have to just sit down in the chair and put words on paper. Stick to a routine. Sometimes it will be difficult to write a single sentence, other times the paragraphs will flow easily for hours on end. But eventually, day-after-day, you’ll build momentum. And the story will have written itself to “done.”
  5. The thing I found interesting about this article is the diversity of tips that these authors have included. Everybody finds inspiration in different ways, and gets excited about their work (and the work of others) through different vehicles. Next time you sit down to write, see if you can come up with a few pointers for yourself. Then write them down … it might help.