Dave, I’ve written a lot of articles for magazines, but never anything as substantial as the half of a book I’m co-authoring with a colleague. I know my question is pretty broad, but I’m hoping for stuff of the “I wish I had known / done this when I first started out” variety. So, Dave, what’s your best advice to me?
Okay. Here’s my key piece of advice for all new writers:
GET OVER THE WRITERS BLOCK MYTH
It’s a job, you’re a professional writer, and your task is to type, to put words down, to produce. Writer’s block is for fiction writers and hobbyists who enjoy the anguish and angst of “the creative process”. One of the very best things I ever learned about writing was from NJIT professor Peter Elbow’s books, that WRITERS WRITE.
Don’t pussyfoot around. Don’t worry about word count. Don’t waste time fiddling with formats or how MS Word does something or other. Just teach yourself – fast – to get your ideas on paper or on screen.
That’s why a blog is such a great tool for writers, by the way: because it forces you into a discipline of writing. Not “two weeks, I still can’t think of something to say, woe is me” or any of that whinging nonsense, but “it’s 9am, I gotta publish 3-5 paragraphs on my given topic, so here I go!”.
When I was in college, we had journals and I had to write 3-4 pages every single day, regardless of what I wrote, even if it was pure naval gazing or late teen-angst balderdash. It was GREAT practice, a great path to learn how to write on demand, not when “the muse hits”.
Having said that, rather passionately, if I may say so :-), don’t forget to have fun, take breaks, go play, watch a movie, chase your lover around your desk (and catch ’em), skip writing for a day, practice with some nonsense verse or fiction, whatever.
After all, at the end of the day, this should be fun and rewarding, with both the reward of doing good work, of writing well, AND of the sense that you’re doing something at which you really excel. I love writing, I’m a good writer, I’m fast, and damned if I’m not getting paid to do something that lets me live the lifestyle I want too. How cool is that?? 🙂
Neil, you have everything you need to not just succeed, but become a shining star in this space. You’re smart, you’re connected, you’re already networking with your peers, and damn it man, you even have a contract! 🙂
Now Go, Man, GO!