Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Erika Mitchell Shares What She's Learned About Writing

Brooding Genius Not Required

Whenever I tell people I’m a novelist, the most consistent response I get is, “I’d LOVE to write a book.” Every single time, I have to bite down on my tongue to keep from asking what’s stopping them. Probably because I already know what’s stopping them: Work, family, time commitments, fear of failure, etc.
Of the lot of these, the last excuse is the easiest to address. It doesn’t seem like it should be, though, does it? There is undoubtedly something daunting about Writing A Novel. Almost like if you’re not some brooding genius scribbling over a notebook while running frustrated hands through your disheveled hair, you aren’t qualified to be a writer.

I would like to offer a different perspective, however. While it might be cool to be Henry David Thoreau, locked away in a cabin for two years penning masterpieces, it’s not necessary. The only thing necessary to be a writer is to write.Wanna know why?

Because no one ever has to read your writing. It’s true. If you set out to write the Great American Novel because you’re convinced that’s the only thing other people will accept, you will fail. Every time. It’s too much pressure.

If, however, you approach your writing as though no one will ever see it, I absolutely guarantee you’ll have a much better time. Writing with the intention that no one will ever read it is the best way I can think of to ensure you’ll enjoy writing your story.

I kid you not, this mindset will get you through writer’s block, intimidation, and self-consciousness. It’s a huge and unfortunately predominant misconception that you should only write stuff you intend to try to get published. The looming specter of the disapproving publishing house of doom will stymie you every time.
Simply sit down and write. And then keep going. If you get stuck writing a scene you think you should be writing, switch to a scene you feel like writing. You can always go back and fix what doesn’t work, but the purest, most enjoyable parts of the story will always come from a place where the writer is having fun.
So have fun. Even if the story never sees the light of day, you can still hold your head high because you’ve done something 99% of would-be writers never do: You finished something.

I assure you, the finished novel on your hard drive is going to be a thousand times better than the unfinished novel in anyone’s head.


Rosemary Gemmell said...

Excellent post, Erika - thanks!

Susan Macatee said...

Great post, Erika! And I agree! Something about finishing that first draft, even though I know I'll have to go back, revise and edit to make it publishable; is very satifying. When I'm writing that draft, I try to enjoy the process and not obsess over all the little mistakes and inconsistancies. Those can all be fixed later.

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Such wonderful points and the imagery to go with it.

That must be what happened to my hair.