In hindsight, deciding to be a writer has been the most daunting endeavor I could have ever been faced with. I know it may be too early to say this, it has been barely a couple months since I started writing as my possible present and future job, but I already feel a lot of changes regarding how I see writing now in comparison to how I saw it back in the day when it was just a hobby. I have been writing on and off during the last seven years, just as a sort of private activity that one day I showed to the world through a blog. During that short adventure I gathered a small group of readers and friends who liked my work and thought it could be published. I did not share their enthusiasm and optimism, and finally due to different reasons abandoned the blog. I kept writing privately and finally, after many professional ups and downs, decided to give professional writing a try. Quite a leap of faith.
It all seems… different. It is no longer the pastime for a rainy day or a sort of reflection after events that pushed my emotions into very defined directions. It is still my greatest pleasure and something I find peace in, but it now has a different focus. I cannot wait for the dark clouds to write some very oppressive prose or for love to compose delightful poetry. So, at first I thought I just needed ideas, inspiration, a direction to walk in and the rest would be creative work, adequate wording and a thorough proofreading. I sure wish it was that easy. But I have learned a thing or two along the way, maybe not the best lessons, maybe not even the right ones. Still, things that have worked for me and may work for others, or, worst case scenario, the things you might want not to do if you ever decide you want to write.
When it came to become a writer I failed terribly at first because I still was in some sort of “hobby mode” and thought I would do well just by putting together a number of my works and trying to publish them as an e-book now that doing so is pretty easy. True enough, that has worked for many people and there is not a single reason it might not work for you, but expecting overnight success is naive at best. So, with a noticeable part of my hopes dashed, I came to the conclusion that if I ever wanted this to work, I would need a way to let the world know what I could do. Hence, the blog. Blogging has never been given much credibility, but it works to create links, grow a reader base and develop a work routine.
Yes, that is right. But, mind you, not the boring “every day is exactly the same” kind of routine. Just a healthy reminder that you need to keep working on your craft on a regular basis. I thought that would be easy, after all, it is something I love to do, but it became really tricky. My work routine usually involved turning on my laptop, opening a word processor and working on whatever idea I had at the time. It was not working well, so I decided to change it a bit and let the internet give me a few ideas to write about. It did gave me ideas, but it was so entertaining that I left all writing aside for several days, which you might recognize as a severe case of slacking around. Wrong approach, so time for new ideas, and back to the blog.
I opened my blog with the clear intention of promoting my existing work, but doing so was impossible without some nice samplers of what my work looked like. So I started to write, setting a very comfortable Monday and Friday update schedule that gave me plenty of time to think and come up with neat stuff. Of course, I quickly realized how easy is to fall off from your planned schedule and fail to update the blog due to whatever reason, but still I tried my best to keep updating two to three times a week. And, surprise, it worked. It provided a comfortable time frame to gather, develop and polish new ideas without losing this feeling of freedom that an independent job gives.
At this point you might say: “well, you set up a schedule, big deal”. And I would say: “yes, it is”; remember this is a job that solely depends on your own determination to work and most of the time people depend on someone telling them what to do, when to do and how to do it. Being your own boss allows you the freedom to slack around without feeling you are doing so, you are just “giving yourself some space” and that space might keep growing until you realize a month has passed and you have not written a single word. Or you might say, “I am searching for inspiration”, but if that search does not have some definite limits, another month may pass and inspiration still eludes you.
I have always been a big fan of fantasy and science fiction, so after a few thoughts on the issue, I decided to write stories within the boundaries of each one of these genres. So I started with a short search for ideas and a couple hours of surfing the web and reading, I came up with a situation, a character and a conflict; just what I needed to start. “Well, you did not actually say anything about how you got those” – and that is absolutely true because I did not follow a set process or several steps, carefully choose works from my favorite authors or found an inspiring quote or website. I tried to look for things related to what I wanted to do (fantasy and sci-fi), but I really just let the ideas come and go, finally settling for one that I thought would be good to develop.
True enough, sometimes inspiration comes as a sudden flash, but you cannot rely on that to write on a regular basis. So you have to wander around a bit to gather new things to ponder about. It may take a while but yields better results in the long run. You do not need to copy or follow any particular style or concept, feel free to take things you like from here and there and then blend them together and see what happens. Try different formulas and then decide which tastes better for you. After all, you have to like your own work. If even the most exhaustive search does not yield the tiniest idea or brings a couple nice mental images of a good story, it would be a good time to reevaluate if you really should be doing this. I will not be the one to tell you what is and what is not possible, but if you have troubles coming up with a few ideas despite what you try as sources of inspiration, well, brace yourself for a very rough road uphill. You were warned.
Some quality assurance (a.k.a. proofreading what you just wrote) also helps to give a professional touch to your work. It increases its quality greatly by virtue of a good use of grammar and spelling. Granted, my own work sounds funny because I eschew contractions and the use of punctuation sometimes is not the best (I am constantly working on this, English is not my first language), but I try my best to make sure there are not any errors that may cause my reader to say “oh God, why?”. You might want to repeat some steps or find better advice in case you want to write something long and intricate as a novel, but it might work perfectly for Flash Fiction. Publish, rinse and repeat.
It might not have the appearance of a job right now. I do not get any income from my writing at the moment and that is perfectly fine, I no longer expect overnight success. I want to develop a reader base, people who simply enjoy a good short story and then decide if I want a partnership with another artist so we can create merchandise or if I want to publish again. You will surely find yourself in the very same place I am now. Just keep going on, write regularly, keep the ideas flowing, promote your work around and never give up.
Sure, I know this column is quite similar to what I expressed in a previous article on a similar topic (this one), but I feel I have made some progress regarding my own views and ideas, enough to warrant another lengthy rant.
I hope you enjoyed this article. Any comments and feedback would be greatly appreciated.
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