“I am sure that some are born to write as trees are born to bear leaves: for these, writing is a necessary mode of their own development. If the impulse to write survives the hope of success, then one is among these. If not, then the impulse was at best only pardonable vanity, and it will certainly disappear when the hope is withdrawn.” – C. S. Lewis
All writers hope for success. Duh. But can you persevere through failure after failure before finally becoming successful? As Thomas Edison put it, “I failed my way to success.” The greatest works in the history of mankind, in literature, science, or anything else, have almost always been proceeded by failure after failure. I read somewhere that C. S. Lewis was rejected 800 times before being published. Today, he is considered among the greatest writers of the 20th century. Those hundreds of rejections seem daft in light of the reputation he carries today.
“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan
“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” – David Brinkley
“Success is falling nine times and getting up ten.” – Jon Bon Jovi
As I continue to edit my novel, I believe the disappointment of not trying will be greater than the disappointment of failure. Anytime you take on something challenging, whether you “succeed” or not, if you give it your best shot, you’ll grow stronger. Keep failing. Some kind of success will come if you don’t give up.
This is my second in a series of posts in which I hope to lay down some thoughts and tips on overcoming writers block. You can view part one by clicking here. Don’t think that because I’m writing on how you can overcome writers block that it doesn’t affect me. It is a battle that not only authors have to fight, but students and anyone else who writes on a regular basis. I struggle with it at least a few times a week in my writing.
You know those days when the words just flow so freely from your keyboard that you can hardly type fast enough? It’s the dream scenario for those who love to write. It’s like catching every green light in town on your way to the store. You just keep going. Nothing can stop you. I’ve churned out 20 pages before on such days.
Then, there are those days when you sit down at your desk, knowing you need to write, even knowing what you need to write, but you can’t find the words. It’s like there is a mental block. You begin to wonder if you have digressed back to the third grade. This isn’t how it is suppose to be. You are a writer! You’ve done this before. The words should come freely. Nonetheless, you just don’t know what to put down on paper. Everything you start writing seems stupid and senseless. You delete that first sentence you took ten minutes to cook up and start all over. Writers block.
Tip #3: Write something else. If you can’t find the words you need on one writing project, work on another. Once you have your creative juices flowing it will be easier to go back and get something going on that first project. I’ve tried this many times and it seems to work.
Tip #4: Realize nothing is going to be perfect! This is huge. I’m such a perfectionist, especially when it comes to writing. Every word has to be perfect. Some days I become consumed with this mentality and spend almost an hour on just a few paragraphs. A few hours on the opening paragraphs of a story is one thing. What I’m talking about is excessive. Sometimes we think too hard about things. If you can remind yourself your project will not be perfect (especially the first draft) you may find yourself able to continue. Don’t sit and wait for words from above… write.
When it comes to “perfection”, remember: “The greatest achievement is to outperform yourself.” – Denis Waitley
“What you want is practice, practice, practice. It doesn’t matter what we write (at least this is my view) at our age, so long as we write continually as well as we can. I feel that every time I write a page either of prose or of verse, with real effort, even if it’s thrown into the fire the next minute, I am so much further on.” – C. S. Lewis
That’s right. Becoming a better writer is really that simple… and that hard. You have to write, and write , and write. As C. S. Lewis said, you learn something nearly everytime you write, even if you throw it away in the end. In the novel I am editing, I completely trashed three chapters and rewrote them. Four chapters evolved out of the revision process. It was difficult to do, but I definitely improved the story by doing so.
You learn things as you write. Reading enough blogs or attending more classes won’t guarantee better writing. If you want to turn that pen into a sword, you have to wield it constantly. Think of all the writers you respect who have their style and voice down. It took them years to get to that point. I’m still searching for my style and voice. As with anything else in life, if you want to excel, you have to work hard. Just as pro sports players spend thousands of hours in the gym to become the best they can be, you have to spend hours upon hours at your desk.
Keep writing. You will become better with every page.
So today will be a short post, but a post nonetheless. I found this quote from one of my favorite writers, Clive Staples Lewis, to be profound (as always).
“Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.” – C.S. Lewis
This so true. The creation and exploration of other worlds only helps to enhance this once. Stories are like dreams. How dull sleep would be without them! Yes, there would be no more nightmares without dreams, but there would also be no wondrously impossible dreams. Stories are like waking dreams. In them, we can go places we could have never gone before.
Writing to music. It’s like writing on steroids, for me.
This is one of the best things for writers, I believe. People talk about situation and atmosphere in writing and how it can effect your tone and levels of inspiration. Having a good situation and inspirational atmosphere help immensely. Music is perhaps one of the art forms that inspires and affects the human soul the most.
I love music. A lot. Most people do. I particularly enjoy trance and techno but find movie soundtracks inspirational in writing as well. I listen to music during most of my writing periods. It just helps the words flow. If I’m writing a battle scene, I listen to intense music. If I’m writing a scene about the natural beauty of the world, I listen to serene music. If I’m writing an epic description of something, I listen to epic music.
If I can’t seem to find the words for what I want to say, I change the song. Suddenly new images flash into my imagination and the words begin to come. As the music moves me, I begin to write, hoping to move my reader in the same manner.
Music and words have a lot in common. Music provokes thoughts and images. I hope to use the music of my words to provoke thoughts and images as well. It’s like a dance. It’s like poetry. Poetry is word music. It’s lyrical. Novels aren’t so poetic, but they can be as inspiring and moving as any great song if done correctly. This is an aim of mine: to move people with my words as much as the greatest songs of all time have done. Knowing the power of music, if I can do that, my writing will be successful.
Listen and write!