Bad Writer Habits

I meet a lot of people, a depressing amount of people, who could be writers. They have the innate understanding of a compelling construction, and possess a creative drive and an imagination beyond normal.

But, as other writers immortalized, “writers are people who write,” and these people I meet often don’t write beyond random ineffective bouts of literary flailing. And it hurts me: this loss of potential. I see the spark unused. I had that same spark, and someone else recognized it and got me going—and I wish I could do that for these people. Be a mentor or a colleague. Get the energy flowing.

But, as they move in the right direction—if they even make it past the fear of beginning—they stumble onto bad habits. Brutally bad habits. And no matter how much advice I give, how much time devoted to helping them, if they do not unlearn these habits, they won’t earn the title of serious writer.

They just won’t.

And it’s a real problem. Because, though I am not connected to other artistic groups like I am with writing (I don’t know a great number of painters, or illustrators, and only a few dancers and actors), I must imagine that same barrier exists for those who pursue those pursuits, and stops hundreds of thousands of creatives in their tracks.

What’s probably the problem is the habits seem so intuitive. The natural operational parameters of the average person are a crippling thing to the production of artistic endeavors.

And don’t, I repeat: DON’T, do these things, but I will list them for the sake of education and for your enjoyment.

• Don’t wait for an idea.

You are not a slave of inspiration. You are its master. Whip your inspiration into shape by plowing through its roadblocks, and it will learn to give gifts whenever you demand it to do so.

• Don’t abandon stories halfway.

I don’t care how shitty it is. Do not leave a project half-written. You can only fix what is already there. Get a first draft done, at least. Stopping halfway through makes it easier to quit on other projects. And then you will never finish anything creative.

• Don’t talk about the story you want to write.

Write the story you want to write. Don’t say it. A story is a communication, an expression of ideas and concepts and emotions. If you say your story, aloud, to anyone besides yourself, then you already communicated. And you will have a heck of a harder time writing the story down.

• Don’t show people the first draft of anything.

I get it, you’re proud of your work. But, honestly, if you show someone your first attempts, you will more than likely get criticism. And, for the beginner, criticism is a killer of drive. Once you have some semblance of self-confidence in your creative ability, you will not be at risk of breaking down from a single nasty comment. So, hold off until that time comes.

• Don’t buy big tools right off the bat.

Excitement is good. Excitement is awesome. Inspiration is an (unnecessary) enjoyable thing. But, and I am not sure why this is the case, buying all the big toys right off the bat results in never using the toys. Like with exercise equipment, having a treadmill will not make you walk more. Having been a dedicated walker makes the tool useful: the tool does not make you into a dedicated walker. The same seems to hold true of many things—writing included.

• Don’t start off with a book.

Seriously. Write shorts first. One hundred words, five pages, ten pages—something, anything, easier. A book is an odd thing: once you do it once, you can do it again and again. But, it’s still a wall, and it’s a wall that trying to run right into, as your first step, results in often nothing but a busted nose and dashed dreams.

These are all bad habits people have. Some people succeed despite such things, but, for the majority, if you want to be a creative: unlearn—as fast as you can—doing these actions. Use what simple tools you have, the simpler the better in fact, and just make some stuff. Then repeat for more time than you’d think reasonable, and you’ll see your mental muscles grow strong enough to hold yourself up, and push away the walls that hold you inside their granite arms.

There’s no easy way. It’s work. It’s practice. It’s not at all for everyone.

But more people should create. And bad habits are something standing in the way of that.

Special thanks to: Bob GerkinCollin PearmanDylan AlexanderJerry Banfield, and Michael The Comic Nerd. 

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