#SCBWIsocial! Crafting Your Writing Life: Seven Lessons to Become a Better Writer, by Lori Ann Palma

It’s the Third Thursday of July already, which means it’s time for #SCBWIsocial! Be sure to hop on over to see what our MD/DE/WV SCBWI sisters have to say at As The Eraser Burns, and consider writing up a blog post of your own today! But first, check out this great post by Lori Ann Palma…

When I think about writing craft, what first comes to mind are all the ways I can improve my  skills to tell more compelling stories. While I’m still learning lessons on the art of writing, I’m also beginning to understand that craft isn’t just about building our writing muscles, but also the daily practice of living a creative life.
Years ago, when I decided to try my hand at fiction, craft was my first priority. Immediately, the quality of my writing improved. I completed a manuscript, then a second, and then a third. But for all the progress I made, I found I wasn’t getting much better at being a writer. I had a difficult time dealing with the small injuries that occur when you choose to express yourself creatively. Negative comments, even when constructive, burrowed deep under my skin. Any life adjustment, such as a job change, sent me fleeing from the page. And rejection…forget about it. I immediately abandoned my work for days, weeks, even months, at the slightest hint of an obstacle. After nail-biting my way through these tough times, I finally understood that I needed to put time into the craft of developing a writer’s mindset, just as I was committed to improving my writing skills.
Here are the lessons I’ve learned, and continue to practice:
1. Get comfortable with ambiguity: The truth about being a writer is that you’ll never have all the answers. While some people call it ambiguity, I call it anxiety, because it’s scary to not know where you’re going, especially when beginning a draft or being in the depths of the dreaded middle. It’s rare to have a full draft plotted before you write, or to understand the theme of your work before it’s finished. As you cultivate your craft, also realize that patience with yourself is paramount to a happy writer’s life. That being said…
2. Writing is work, and you have to show up: Just like any job, you have to show up in order to get paid. The pay-off in fiction is finishing a paragraph, a chapter, and eventually, a draft. If you don’t sit down and work, you can’t expect to see the results. Make a schedule that fits your life and stick to it. If you find yourself drifting, readjust the schedule, and keep going. There’s no point in feeling bad about it, because…
3. There will never be enough time: Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither are novels or picture books. They take time, and they will always take longer than you think. Setting a timeline for your goals can be a good way to stay on task, but beware of the dictator in your head that demands everything be done by yesterday. By rushing, you might glaze over the problems in your work that you know are there, but choose not to fix because you’re already past a self-inflicted schedule. Give the work the time it needs, and realize that…
4. Things will be left undone: As I write this, there are dishes to be unloaded from the dishwasher and laundry to be done. And yet, I ignore them. There will always be a task that has to be completed, but when you’re a writer, you have to ignore the small things in order to pay attention to what needs doing in your work. And it’s not just all work, it’s also play. Remember…
5. You must fill the well: Inspiration isn’t an unlimited stream, but needs to be refilled when you’re feeling depleted. Whether that’s taking an hour to read, see a movie, or visit an art exhibit, we must add to our resources on a regular basis. While it may seem like a frivolous pursuit, and not actual writing, we must feed our brains with the images and emotions that can later become sources for inspiration. And if you come across something particularly life-changing, pass it on, because…
6. Artists help each other: We are all struggling at times, and we all need help at times. If you stumble onto a great writing resource, let your friends know. Pass on a particularly helpful blog post to your tribe, or send a funny GIF to a writer who tweets that they are having a difficult time with querying. When you give, you receive. And there will definitely be times when you’ll need to be propped up, since…
7. Rejection happens to all of us: Whatever form it takes, and whether it’s a large blow or a minor injustice, rejection will come your way. It’s impossible to avoid it, but it is possible to change how you experience it. As part of being a writer, you have to practice the art of self-compassion and recovery on a daily basis. That means remembering you can only be rejected if you’re putting yourself out there, which is brave and necessary for your success. And knowing the sting isn’t permanent. It will fade. And when it does, you keep going.
In what ways have you learned to craft your writing life? Are there any lessons you’re still struggling to embrace?
Now let’s get social! Tweet to Lori Ann at @LAnnPalma, and tweet some more using the #SCBWIsocial hashtag. Leave a comment with a link to a blog post of your own, or just comment to say hi! Share and read and make new friends! Here are the guidelines, in case you need a refresher 🙂 Have fun!
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2 Responses to #SCBWIsocial! Crafting Your Writing Life: Seven Lessons to Become a Better Writer, by Lori Ann Palma

  1. Lindsay Bandy says:

    Thanks, Lori Ann! #1 and #4 are still hard for me. But you’re so right…if we’re going to stay sane and enjoy the creative life, we’ve got to work on these things. Otherwise, the anxiety can destroy the joy of writing!

  2. Pingback: Crafting Your Writing Life: Seven Lessons to Become a Better Writer – Lori Ann Palma

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