Fantasy: To become an author, we just need to have a great idea, write it down, and then agents, publishers, and readers will all magically appear.
Reality: Nothing like that.
Becoming an author isn’t simple. Oh no. We have what seems like a never-ending list of things to learn and do if we want to succeed.
One of the things I’ve found about writing is that there is so much to learn. It can take almost all your time and there’s no time for the actual writing.
He’s right. Even the briefest summary of a writer’s to-do list looks rather intimidating:
- Learn about the writing craft (from non-fiction books, blogs, workshops, critique groups, beta readers, published fiction books, etc.)
- Learn about the publishing industry (from non-fiction books, blogs, workshops, conferences, etc.)
- Network and build platform (create website/blog, write blog posts, attend conferences, use Twitter and Facebook, etc.)
- And oh yeah, find time to write.
And that’s not including family life and day job. How is it possible to learn it all and do it all? Balance.
Learning how to balance all aspects of our lives is just as important as all the other stuff we have to learn. Maybe more important. Once we’re under contract, we’ll have to add deadlines and more marketing to our to-do lists. As a previous post about balance noted, it’s better to learn this balancing skill now, before we have to face those deadlines too.
One way to find that precious writing time is to realize that we don’t have to learn everything this instant. When we first start out and realize how much there is to know, we want to inhale knowledge.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who wishes that device that let Neo learn everything instantly in Matrix was real. But as I mentioned in my post about the stages of learning, we’ll never learn everything and there will always be more to learn.
I replied to Kerry’s comment with:
[O]ur learning doesn’t end. That’s good news—because now we know we can take our time learning and balance it with the actual writing.
There’s a reason why so much advice about learning how to write centers around, well, writing. If we wait to learn everything first before settling in to write, the writing will never happen because the learning never ends.
Also, the lessons we absorb while reading become second nature as we use them in our writing. Many things I used to have to pay attention to as I wrote now happen automatically. Writing helps our learning just as much as the reverse.
I’ve kept all my feedback from beta readers, critique partners, and contest judges. I go back and review those notes a couple of times a year to see if I can learn anything new from them. Often, my understanding of an issue (show vs. tell, sensory writing, etc.) has grown so much during the interim that I see new ways to improve my work.
So don’t worry about trying to cram for this writing test. Mix your learning with your writing. Both your learning and your writing will be better for it.
Do you have a hard time pausing the learning and researching to actually write? What techniques do you have to encourage writing? Do you have set times for each? Word count goals? Do you keep notes about what you want to learn about or research later?