Last night I went to an event run by Grazia called ‘Overcome your creative barriers’ – because don’t we all need help with that. A group of wonderful writers – Jessie Burton, Bryony Gordon, Bridget Minamore, Laura Jane Williams and Elizabeth Day – offered their advice on how to get around the many challenges we all face when just trying to get words on the page.
It was great and, as ever, I wanted to pass on some of the tips and very reassuring words of wisdom I brought home. Hope you find them useful!
1. Just write one true sentence. And then write another. And another.
2. Women are often afraid to take up space – be it in real life or online. Don’t be.
3. You need to find the right balance between self-criticism and self-awareness. You need to be honest about your work, but don’t hold yourself back.
4. Exam-style success does not transfer to creativity – it’s not possible to write something perfect. It doesn’t work like that.
5. If you give yourself to your work it doesn’t matter what anyone else says because you’ve done what you can do.
6. Remember: It took Beyoncé 15 years and six albums to produce the practically flawless Lemonade. It’s a process for everyone, so don’t feel bad about what you’re doing now, feel proud of it.
7. There is not always a direct correlation between social media, readers and success.
8. … but the online community can be an amazing source of work, ideas, audiences, pals…. etc. Some people wouldn’t have their careers without it.
9. Writing is a great way to resolve the unresolved – you often don’t know how you really feel about something until you write it down.
10. “I don’t really do it for pleasure, I do it because I have to” – I related to this so much.
11. “I’m happiest when I’m in the writing – it’s getting myself to the act of writing [which is the hard part]” – YEP.
12. You have to be very, very, very determined to do it. You have to find the time otherwise you will never do it. The secret to writing is writing.
13. If you have a day when you can’t write, at least read.
14. (When writing about yourself) Be fearlessly unapologetically you.
15. Give yourself your own deadlines.
16. Learn all the words to Don’t rain on my parade by Barbara Streisand – it’s not your mistake to make, it’s mine, and I’m going to have a great time trying.
17. The words are not going to come out like you think they’re going to come out. But that’s OK. That’s what editing is for. Give yourself permission for it to be rubbish. A first draft is supposed to suck.
18. (On finding writing difficult) If you were driving into a wall, you wouldn’t keep just driving at the wall, you’d back up. So back up, and see why it’s not working.
19. Play classical music to help you focus. Or listen to something EPIC like a film soundtrack to make you feel that what you’re doing is really important.
20. If you’re struggling to write, find something in the process that brings you joy – be it sentence structure or language or dialogue – find something that makes you feel happy.