by Dawn Gresko
So there’s a ton of material on the world wide web (and the whole wide world) telling you how to write. What about how not to write?
Instead of sharing strategies for how I’ve gone about composing my own poetry and prose, which is a totally subjective process and could never apply to every person reading this, I thought it might be better to offer a more generalized list of “don’ts” or suggestions for what not to do when writing that could benefit writers of every shape and form.
Here are my tips on what to avoid when it comes to the writing process:
Do not compare your work to what other authors have done or are doing
You should absolutely be willing to learn whatever another writer or piece of writing has to teach you. However, believing that your writing will never match up to someone else’s words is a sure path to discouragement, doubt, and any other d-words you can conjure up with negative connotations. Because you’re right: it won’t match up and it shouldn’t. Your writing reflects your unique voice, you will do well to remember that and use it to your advantage.
Do not skip on making time to write
Maybe your creative juices aren’t overflowing on a certain day, or you can’t write a solid sentence without cringing at what you’ve made. Do’t make that an excuse to skip out on writing. Set a time, even if it’s just 30 minutes on your lunch break, for inputting words on your mobile note app or writing an idea down on a scrap piece of anything.
Do not edit as you write
Whatever is on your mind, get the whole thing out or as much as you can in one sitting. It’s not going to be pretty. But that’s why it’s called a draft. If you’re stuck, just work your way to the end. After that, you can go back and make the whole thing pretty as you please. It’s better to have written a work in progress, which you can return to with a fresh pair of editing eyes later, then to have never finished writing anything at all.
Do not let criticism control your writing
So someone read your piece, what you poured your blood, sweat and tears into making, and they just don’t get your metaphors, they don’t understand your message or your characters, and they’re opinionated about it. Hear what they have to say, consider what you would do differently (if anything) based on what’s been said, but don’t give up or assume any outside source knows what is best for your writing. Listen, learn, and move on. In fact, one of my favorite authors gives the best advice on how to deal with criticism on your writing:
“When people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”
– Neil Gaiman
Do not put anything ahead of your writing
If any writing words of wisdom should resonate with you, let it be this: Be selfish when it comes to your writing. Let your writing always come first. Yes, we all have responsibilities to meet day-to-day. We have jobs, relationships, households, and other aspects of daily living to upkeep. But if you’re serious about writing, you won’t let anything come between you and your craft. I mean it. Don’t.
Now that you’ve read this post, go finish that best seller you’ve been hoarding in your mind! You already have everything you need to do it.
And if you have any additional thoughts on what we writers should steer clear of doing when creating, for the sake of writing, please advise us in the comments below. I’m sure other authors are interested in what you have to say, myself included!
Dawn Gresko is an author, poet, and flash fictionist. When she isn’t writing she’s probably with her rat terrier, contorting into small spaces for reading, Netflixing obscure titles, getting lost in web feeds or contemplating too much. Follow her social media shenanigans on Instagram and Twitter.