1. Read less how-to-write books and articles. Of course, you feel the need for some. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have clicked on this one. But, you should be worried if they form the bulk of your reading diet. If this is the tenth how-to on writing you’ve read this week, I suggest you abort immediately and go read a real book.
2. Learn to write intuitively. That is what we are doing when we are reading, and when we are working on our own writing. Writing well is a subconscious process. There is no instant Hemingway-making device, not to my knowledge. Even if there was, you shouldn’t be writing like him. Learn from him if you want to, but be your own person. Be your own writer.
3. Preferably, don’t take a literature course. Literature courses don’t teach you how to write, unless they offer a specific course on creative writing. Even then, most creative writing classes entail a lot of talking and strutting your writing stuff, without much profitable learning. And concerns of courses on literary texts are totally different. You may read a lot of books, and read a lot about books, but they won’t necessarily take you further on realising your own creative writing potential. They may even, temporarily, block it.
4. Writing preparation isn’t a ritual, but a lifestyle. Writing things down is only the second last step. Everything else, is preparation. That is how you have to train your mind to work. Always be ready for an idea when it comes to you, because it usually doesn’t in the two hours you set aside for writing everyday. Turn off the gas, get out of the shower, accidentally hit the man standing next to you on the train as you rummage through your bag for a pen, pause the TV channel, do whatever it takes to note that bit of inspiration down.
5. Don’t romanticize writing. You don’t need fancy stationery, a typewriter or expensive coffee at a coffee shop to write your masterpiece. There is no camera taking a portrait of the artist that is you at work. You don’t need to migrate to the countryside, or if you are of modernist leanings, to the afore-mentioned but possibly decadent coffee shop, to be a writer. When you are writing, the last thing on your mind should be where you are writing, and how you look when you are writing.
6. Revise your grammatical skills. Preferably, not from a grammar app or a Strunk and White e-book on your Kindle. The best way to go about it is to teach somebody, maybe children or those who are learning English as a foreign language. If not, teach yourself. Don’t over-intellectualize it. You know you need it every step of the way, so keep it as simple and regular as possible.
7. Go easy on the Goodreads reading challenges and Kindle percentages. It’s nice to read a lot of books, but it’s nicer to make the most out of them when you read them. If you have a goal, and everything around you keeps reminding you of that goal, you’re going to focus more on the goal than on what will get you there. You can get a lot out of books even if you don’t finish them. And five books that you read at your own leisure and deliberation is of more value than fifty books you read just to impress your social media followers.
8. Write everyday. Doesn’t have to be a pseudo-office setting at home, complete with a DND sign on the door. Can just be a few scribbles out of boredom at your real office. Can be the embryo of a graphic novel on a sleepless night. Being too organised isn’t necessarily going to trick your brain into doing something that intimidates you, even if you love it. You have to love it, and love it. Therefore, get into the habit of enjoying it.
9. There is no right background to be a writer. The world was not made with built-in genres. Therefore, do not think you have to be a certain kind of writer, in order to be taken seriously. The piece of writing has to work by itself, because you are irrelevant to it. No one would care to know you, unless what you write intrigues them enough to even read the name of the author aloud.
10. Thoroughly learn the business of publishing and marketing books. Yes, yes, you are an artist. An arty person who goes blank when you see big numbers. Well, those big numbers will make a lot of sense when someone has cheated you of them. There are plenty of resources on the internet to learn from. No one can cheat you once you bore them with your incessant questions about the fine print.