Just start putting a bit more thought into what you write – and do it more often.
Stop tapping away at whatever you’re writing on that keyboard and listen up. Today is National Writing Day. Yay! I don’t mean that sarcastically, it’s just that I’m not about to get all preachy on you and roll out hackneyed, well-worn cliches like “We’ve all got a book in us” yada yada yada.
National Writing Day is a great initiative and, if it inspires people to get writing, then all the better. But whenever we hear the words “National Writing Day”, so many people tense up and think “Oh cripes! I’ve got to write a book! How do I write a book? Where do I start! What shall I write about?” It’s really, really, not about that.
First off, let’s get this out of the way. According to this here website, National Writing Day is “an annual celebration of writing designed to inspire people across the UK to get writing”. The message is simple: “Everyone has a story to tell and sharing it can be a source of pleasure and power”.
Okay, that’s fine. I’m not going to repeat it verbatim, just follow the link to read all the promotional blurb on what National Writing Day is and what it aims to achieve.
No. It does not. What it does mean is that if you have a story to tell – tell it. And it can be however long, or short, you want it to be. And you decide when and how often you want to write.
Choose the format or platform that suits you best, whether it’s a short story, a blog, a social media post or whatever, and start by trying to ramp up your output. And, at the same time, try being more creative about what you write. I’m not going to bang on about the use of metaphors or similes, there are plenty of resources online to help you out on that front.
If you’re writing more, then straight away you’re on the road to further developing your writing skills. And that’s got to be a winner, hasn’t it?
Many of us do have a book in us. Lord knows I’ve written more opening pages to my “magnificent octopus” than I care to imagine. But have I ever written a whole, actual book? Nope. At least, not yet anyway.
When it comes to writing serious volumes of words, the real crux of the matter for the majority of us, is when do we actually have time to sit down and churn out 5,000 words a week? Life gets in the way.
“I’m going to write that book I’ve always said I’d write,” said anyone. “I’m going to start writing a weekly series of blogs,” said another. “I’m going to write a thousand words on the back of a postage stamp,” said no one (probably/hopefully).
Many people fancy themselves as a writer. And they may turn out to be very good at it. They might actually write a book and have it published and everything. They’ll even have one of those dedications to their parents/children/spouse/dead cat.
But many more will quickly discover they don’t like doing it, or that they just don’t have the time to dedicate themselves to a daily/weekly ritual, because they’ve over-stretched their goals. I’ve known people who are hell-bent on writing their own blogs, website content, social media posts, you name it. They start off with the very best of intentions, but then realise it’s a hassle and that, actually, someone else could do it better for them, and much quicker, too. They don’t keep it up, and it’s those people who often end up reaching out to companies like us.
It’s like joining the gym. Every January 1, we start out with the best intentions to get fit, lose weight etc. We start off going a few times a week, then it drops down to a couple, then it’s just once a fortnight because, you know, I’ve got to justify the £40 a month. Then it dribbles despairingly into nothing at all, and before you know it there’s a dormouse nesting in those expensive Nikes you bought but left outside the back door because they were a constant reminder that you should be doing exactly what you’re not doing. Sheer apathy takes over. Or, more often than not, life gets in the way.
So, keep it short to begin with and don’t set targets that you know, deep down, you won’t be able to achieve. Don’t try to write ‘War and Peace’, just pick a platform and go from there.
If you want to write a book and you’re inspired to do so by National Writing Day, then go for it. I know plenty of people who have, and done so brilliantly, whether their book has been a commercial success or not. If you’ve got to the point where you’ve scribed those immortal words ‘The End’, that alone is a success. And if you have something published – wowsers!
All it can take is a nugget of an idea, a bit of determination and resolve, and away you go. It can also take a hell of a lot of research, which in itself can lead to a whole new branch of fun.
But… It. Doesn’t. Have. To. Be. A. Book.
There are countless opportunities to write, whether it’s with a good old-fashioned pen and paper, from your keyboard, or with a quill and ink, if that’s what you’re into. The thing is, most of us write all the time. We’re constantly writing, on an email, a tweet, an Instagram post, a letter (remember them?), a shopping list… We just don’t stop to think about it, what it is we’re writing, about how we can do it more often, or how we can make it better. So put some thought into it. Get creative.
A key issue is pressure. Insomuch as the pressure you are putting on yourself. Just don’t. Relax, let it flow, don’t be strict on how much you NEED to write, or how often. Write when you want, on whatever subject you want.
If you like to tweet often, try to be a bit more creative about what you write. Think about what other words you can use. You’ll be surprised how much you can cram in when forced to stick to 140 characters. It disciplines you to be succinct, to get your point across in the most creative way. Or write a thread, because it’s good fun, it gives you more scope and, by the time you’ve finished, you’ll realise you’ve got a nice, little, short story. The key is: you’ll be writing.
If you want to write a blog, do it when you like, on whatever subject you like, to whatever length you like. If you only write four blogs a year, it’s better than nothing. The beauty with a blog is that you’re in complete control. You’ve got no one telling you what to write, or pulling you up on your punctuation and grammar (hopefully, though, you’ll iron out any of those mistakes yourself as time goes on), or pressurising you because you’re close to a deadline. It’s your baby, and you can do what you like with it. They key is: you’ll be writing.
If you’ve got a story in you, and the idea of writing a short story really appeals, have a go at it. I’ve always got a notebook at hand somewhere, which is ideal for jotting down thoughts, sentences, opening lines, what I need from Aldi this week, story ideas, book titles. Your content will soon mount up, giving you more than enough inspiration as a starting point. The next step is to take all those scribbles and formulate it into something coherent. The key is: you’ll be writing.
Pick a place to start, one that you’re comfortable with, and see how far you can go. There’s no harm in giving it a go and seeing where it leads. Who knows, it could be dead exciting!
I love writing. I find it incredibly difficult at times, though. And I wish I could be so much better at it. But I keep on trying, and so should you, if for the following reasons only:
One of the best bits of advice I can give you is: Read as much as you can. Reading other authors, blog writers, people you follow on social media, will make you a better writer. You can pick up ideas and styles that you can turn to your own advantage, and just run with them. Obviously, plagiarism is a big no-no, but there’s no harm in taking inspiration and learning from others (it’s flattering for the author, for a start).
At the end of it all, if you’ve written something that has come from your brain, your imagination, your fingertips, then bravo! And who cares if it sucks? It probably doesn’t. Even if it does, so what. You’ve done it, and hopefully it’s made you happy.