The secrets of those who make a living publishing, ideas, tricks and habits.
A famous sportsman, Red Smith, was asked once whether it would be difficult to write his daily column. He said, “Why no.” Anyone who has ever tried to mix a lot of words to make them sound fascinating will feel Smith’s pain. “Somebody who has tried to put him in a squeeze, open his veins and bleed.” It’s hard to write — and it can sound like you’re Jack Nicholson in the Shining, who always type the same sentence.
And we all remember what it was like.
I interview authors of all kinds— magazines, journalists, screenwriters and business people— in my podcast writing about now, how they stopped the bleeding, began writing and ended up in the forefront of their career. Two years ago, I started the show and during that time I went into more than 300 effective scribes’ techniques and techniques. I saw some of the common themes starting to raise their poetic heads after some time. Name them hacks of writing, but not the type of blood drawing. Six successful writers are doing here.
Every day writers write a little
It seems simple, but if you don’t actually write this part you can’t be a novelist. But so many aspiring writers have a thousand reasons why they have not put their fingers on the keyboard: they have no good ideas, no money, no confidence, they have nothing interesting to say. You might write a novel about why you’re not writing a novel. But here’s a little secret: every time you sit down to write, you don’t have to compose your masterpiece. It doesn’t have to be perfect at all. Everything it wants to be coherent. Writing takes time. It takes practice. Discipline is required. Everything needs to be revealed. The toughest thing is to sit down and do it for yourself. Words are like a river several days away. It drips like a leaky faucet most days. Let yourself write every day, though, even if it’s only 15 minutes.
Just as you must write, you must also read to write. Austin Kleon told me “There was a large portion of my career as a writer so I could become a professional reader.” A lot of the successful authors read. And, although most writers do so to discrastinate, we are not thinking about searching their feeds in social media. We speak about reading trustworthy authors ‘ well-written stories. While 850-word lists like this one are okay to be read (do not forget to like them, comment and share them!), you have to broaden your horizons. Find a writer you like and read some of her books or posts, and take a couple of notes. Seek in your own writing to emulate their style and expression. You say, “Better authors take borrowing from the publisher, and great writers steal from him.” Do enough and you will begin to develop osmosis in their capacity.
Writers are patient.
Here’s a little practice: Go for a walk and don’t look at your phone for 10 minutes after reading this story. Just watch and hear. You’ll be shocked at how many things you know you’d just overlooked before. Great authors look out. They are like machine bots taking notes about your actions and all you do. You see a reason for this in great writing — the major writer is watching you. There is a reason. The emphasis also leads to great insights about history. Contrary to the common belief, you don’t like a lightning bolt of inspiration. This comes right here from the experience of the world. Taffy Brodesser-Akner told me in our Podcast Interview as the best-selling writer and prolific New York Times culture blogger. “Tell me what you think.”
Writers write down things
It’s all right and good to notice things around you, but you still won’t forget it if you don’t write it down. Popular for carrying around little laptops, Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld go to record their odd observations. This practice was given to another Seinfeld creator, Peter Mehlman, who told me on the podcast that when he heard a radio ad for a female contraceptive drug he got the idea for the sponge-worthy episode. If you feel like you are lugging around a notebook, you can use an app. I speak about Evernote’s authors who curse. I know texts ideas for another blogger. The aim is to store your mind in a different place than your brain. Inside tip: It helps to look at your list of ideas if you feel confused.
Writers allow it to run, then slow down
The first draft is the worst draft, great writers know. But they are happy to just start from their thoughts on the list. We know there will be time for a few edits and comments later on. Editing is great writing. Great writing. Often this is the fun side. What is important isn’t editing yourself as you go— not only will it take you to finish forever, it will also continue to cultivate all those judgmental thoughts that run through your mind, telling you that your writing stinks.
Writers write about what you want
Instead of just writing what we want to write, we spend a good deal of time trying to figure out. This is partially because of our natural business mentality to “adapt to the market,” the popular idea that holes need to be filed are to be found in the publishing room. This type of writing has led to content mills and endless books by Kindle on niche topics such as cats ‘ yoga. But I would say that it has never been published really well. And it never makes you feel proud to call your own writing. If you are excited about what you write, if you want what you write and if it comes from the genuine location, it translates to the paper. You can’t clone it. As the writer and author Clare Pooley said on my podcast: “Write down the story you know you’re going to tell and not the story you think people want to hear. There are plenty of other published hacks. But I will save my veins from the pain for now, and I will leave it at six. Only a guy can take so much writing.