Second Skin, With Warts

Calloused old hack I may be (fingers not soul, we hope).  I think I’ve grown the extra skin of resistance every writer needs to survive the slings and arrows of outrageous feedback, but even I find it hard these days not to be pulled every which way by the wealth of advice that is out there. Not only does the sheer quantity of it come at you like an avalanche and endlessly, but a lot of it conflicts. It doesn’t take much to derail even the most determined writer. When too many voices clamour for attention and my head is stuffed with should and shouldn’t, this is how I have learned to cope.

Screw Everything Just Write

How do you learn to trust your writer’s instinct, to shut out the world and just write? That’s how it happens, right? By magic? How much time should you spend wading through online resources? How do you know which are the good ones? It comes down to what is right for you, and for your purpose at the time.

I am an experienced writer. I’ve written all my life, although most of it has been for other people, for third party publications and web sites. Whilst I’ve put in my ten thousand hours and more, I wouldn’t claim to be an expert, nor to know the half of it, or even a sixteenth of it, however I strive to be an expert in my own writing. It’s often a lonely business, and the bottom line is you have to trust your own judgement. In practical terms, it’s all you can do.

Know What Kind of Writer You Are

With hindsight, I believe this is part of the painful ten thousand hours. Fiction or non-fiction, you go through a phase where you experiment with genre, formats and styles. I think this is part of what people mean by voice. You have to find yours, and when you do, it’s what you’ll be known for, your unique style. If I find my writer’s identity fraying at the edges, I remind myself of the greats who established themselves in a primary genre, like Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Lee Child. You will have your role models too.

Set Clear Objectives

Find your strongest genre and build a portfolio in it. Work to your strengths. and commit to a piece of work. Set a deadline and aim to stick to it. I have a five-year plan with yearly milestones. I only recently started doing this and it has already made me more productive. Following many threads on the question of What else have you got? which is the second hurdle for the new screenwriter to overcome, I understand the importance of it.

Prioritise and Finish

Where are you at? Are you writing, selling or marketing? It’s hard to resist looking at all the stuff down the pipeline when you are eager to have a finished product out. If you find you’re being pulled ahead of yourself, re-read your objectives and get back on track. What do I need to finish today, this month, this year? It may feel like I’m stating the obvious here, but it’s actually quite hard to do.

Choose Your Weapons

Writing is war. I discovered why a couple of years ago. Steven Pressfield is the ninja writing warrior. I did myself a favour by taking his advice. Certain key habits such as writing regularly and committing to a goal, make you a real writer. You’ll find which online and real life communities align best with your writing personality. Limit them to two or three. I belong to a writers’ group in real life and a handful of online communities. Be aware which of these support your writing, and which your marketing.

Bang2write is one of my favourite resources for craft, strategy and the day-to-day heavy digging. Writing Magazine is good for beginners and pros. The online community, Talkback, is great. I adore Anne Mini’s work. Sadly she doesn’t seem to have posted in a while. Jack Dowd keeps a really interesting blog, too.

Trust Your Instinct

Constant rejection can undermine confidence if we let it, but it’s a part of the process and we have to accept it. The prevailing view is, rejection is not personal, and it isn’t. Unfortunately, it feels that way, and it hurts, because the process of writing is strictly personal, even when you’ve totally nailed your marketplace and genre.

You are producing a piece of art, a creative work, so be faithful to your core idea, the impulse that drove you to start the thing in the first place. If it doesn’t resonate in the way you hoped, you can work on something else. It takes time to learn to trust your artistic instinct, and the learning comes from the writing, just writing.

Find your ideal mentors, the ones who ring true for you. Mine are here.

Finish It

Above all, just write. Screw everything. Create the work, the rendering of your core idea. You have to get it down before you can reshape and refine it, work with editors or submit it to agents. Getting it to a marketable standard is a whole other topic, but a writer can’t do anything without product to offer. As The International Freelancer says, Shut up and write. Without this, you have nothing.

Did you enjoy this article? Please tell me about your own writer’s experience in the comment box below. Thanks.


Credits: Image courtesy of