I’ve been writing for three decades, having published more than a dozen novels—one of them traditionally (and that was more than enough for me). I’ve also spent more than 10 years studying and teaching literature at a university level, including getting a PhD in English. Still, it took me all this time and more to figure out something both intriguing and essential to know: Nobody can gauge my own writing but myself.
People can have ideas or opinions, and they can even be good ideas or informed opinions. Very often, when a knowledgeable person with writing experience offers you a piece of advice about your writing, it’s actually a rather accurate assessment.
But that doesn’t necessarily make it true; not until the final authority on the matter—the author of the work—decides so. That’s why they call it… author-ity (yeah, stand-up comedy is not for me; got it).
In the end, writing is a fundamentally solitary endeavor. True, there can be other people involved—advisers, supervisors, editors—but the core of the work is made by one person, the author.
As a result, you are the only one entitled to say whether you’re getting better, in which areas of your writing you’re improving, and by how much. So, it’s worth learning how to do it in a way that serves you and does your writing justice. That’s precisely what I’ll be sharing with you in this post, hopefully inspiring you to look at your career with new eyes.Continue reading
Being passionate about something often qualifies as the threshold separating those who are serious about every aspect of the subject matter and those who merely do something for fun. Having a writing passion is considered akin to being a dedicated writer who has a vastly better chance to be successful.
But is that assumption correct?
To answer that properly, it’s important to understand that “passion”—not to mention “success”—is a vague concept; it can mean different things to different people. As a result, we first need to define both success and passion.
In this context, I define “success in writing” very simply: It refers to being mostly happy with what you’ve written, feeling you mostly managed to express what you intended. Two central reasons are essential for understanding the dynamics involved in the keyword “mostly”:
So, what about writing passion? Again, for the purposes of this post, I define it as an excessive focus on one’s writing, or the fixation on a tangible target such as word count or number of completed projects, even to the point of obsession. Where “excessive” becomes “obsessive” is something we’ll return to in a while.
In this post, I’ll explain why being passionate about writing can actually be damaging to one’s skills—not to mention work-life balance—and I’ll offer alternatives that can help a writer improve their craft while still maintaining this precious balance.Continue reading
Writing is something virtually all of us can get better at. Part of this improvement comes from our becoming more experienced—to put it simply, writing more makes us better. However, another part comes from others’ experience: We learn from the advice of those who’ve written more than we have.
The internet is a fantastic source of writing advice, containing seemingly endless resources and wisdom. And yet, there’s a certain problem with this abundance of knowledge: Not all of it is good for you.
On the one hand you can find excellent, in-depth articles written by people who really want to help you; on the other, catchy one-liners that sound important and wise, but can actually be unproductive, if not outright harmful. The problem is that such short and wise-sounding tips propagate virally and persist. For obvious reasons, we tend to be attracted to simple, one-size-fits-all solutions.
Sadly, these so-called easy solutions are often wrong or, at the very least, misleading or incomplete.
In this post I will visit three of the most persistent such claims about writing. We’ll see which one is somewhat true, which one is wrong, and which one is … not even wrong. The goal is not to offer you ready solutions—that would only perpetuate the “trust me, I’m a writer” problem. Rather, with this post I want to help you see how to gauge such writing claims for yourself.Continue reading
It doesn’t require a degree in meteorology to realize that weather affects many of our activities as well as our mood. Writing, as a hobby and certainly as an integral part of our professional routine, couldn’t be an exception.
On the surface, the influence of weather in our writing seems to be a matter of mood, and a fairly simple one: Good weather, good writing mood; foul weather, foul writing mood, right?
Well, no. It’s not that simple.
The complexity of the way weather affects our writing lies in the fact that there is a lot of subjectivity involved. Some of us like snow and winter; others prefer heat and summer. Indeed, most of us have varied responses to weather, our preferences depending on various factors, including how we feel on a given day, which complicates matters further.
Even then, we can actually leverage weather we don’t particularly like to produce texts of certain kinds, as I will show you in this post.
We would need a steampunk weather machine to … control the weather, but until one is available, we can opt for the next best thing: controlling how weather affects our writing.Continue reading