Guest Post "Help and Advice For Those Who Struggle Starting to Write"

This guest post, in response to my post about struggling with 'being a writer' is from my younger cousin Alex, who as it appears, is full of wisdom and good advice on the subject of writing and I'm sure much more that I've yet to discover.  I hope you find this post useful and encouraging! "Oh my, this is a beautiful and complicated issue that I know a lot of writers struggle with.  The biggest issue with being a writer but not writing is doubt, the idea that no one will think your writing is good enough, so why even try?  And that is not abnormal in the writing community, especially among beginners.

There is a program called NaNoWriMo, which stands for Nation Novel Writing Month.  It involves sitting down and writing 1,667 words everyday for a month.  The big event is in November, but they have ones in June and July that you can participate in too.  The goal of this is not to worry about the quality of the writing but the quantity.  It's about showing yourself that you are indeed capable of writing something of novel length.  Once you accomplish that, the confidence builds from there.  At least for me it did.  And it gets you into a regular schedule of writing.  NaNoWriMo helped me figure out when and where I write my best and what distractions need to be taken away. (I can't have access to the internet at all when I'm writing.)  This I think is one of the basic steps toward becoming confident in your writing.  Just knowing that you are capable of 50,000 unique words that build your unique story is a powerful thing, even if they aren't the most eloquent words. That's what revision is for!  The program has a bunch of books and tips that you can find at http://www.nanowrimo.org/.

One of my favorite creative writing teachers told me a couple of things that I've found very useful.  I set aside 13 minutes a day, at the same time each day to write.  In the first 3 minutes I close my eyes and imagine what I am about to write, whether is a scene in a book or a book review.  I get myself into that mode.  I picture myself in that bookstore, behind the counter where my character works; I remember how I felt while reading that section of the book.  Then I spend the next 10 minutes hand writing my scene.  I've found that writing by hand has worked wonders for my thought process because it gives me time to slow down and think.  (And there isn't anything else to distract me.)

Another exercise you could do takes a little bit longer. Start off making a list of words (sometimes this is better if someone else gives you a word or a list because then you can work several session off the one list.) Let's say one of the words is vomit.  Now you make a list of 10 experiences in your life where vomit was involved.  The list should be a word or a phrase to help remind you of the different situations.  From that list pick one instance to write about. Let's say you choose that time Taylor ate a jelly bean and threw up all over Grandpa's car.  Take a paragraph to describe where you are, when you are, the weather, what you are doing, what other people in this scene are doing, how old you are, what's going on above you, below you, around you.

Then finish the following sentences: 2. I am... 3. You are... 4. We are here because... 5. The worst thing about my life right now is...

Here's a list of words you could use: Shots, pianos, sofas, candy, pills, other people's mothers, breakfast, pajamas, jewelry, groceries, corners, coffee/tea cups, laundry, insects, hoodies, side doors, mixed drinks, gyms, dance floors, bars, restaurants, parking lots, playgrounds, traffic lights, refrigerators, cereal, hands, museums, sinks, dolls, storms, phone calls, vacuum cleaners, hats, boats, shirts.

Every once in a while I go to this blog: http://kathrineroid.wordpress.com/2011/09/25/100-themes-challenge-writing-prompts/ and pick a random writing prompt from the list.  It's a good way to switch up what I'm writing and also to challenge myself.  Also, an excellent source for new words.

I guess the most important thing to know about writing is you just need to do it.  There will be days when you don't have time or don't want to and that's fine.  But that can't become the norm, because when you get comfortable not writing, that's when the not-good-enoughs come back and the confidence starts to decline.

My professors always said writing is a skill that needs to be practiced.  The more you practice the better you get.  It's not going to happen over not and it certainly won't happen on your first try, unless you are the rare exception to this rule.

Oh one last thing.  Maureen Johnson made a great video about writing and sucking.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nyhv80HDSj4.

If part of the issue is that you just stare at blank space, there's a website called: http://writeordie.com/ that will force him to just write.  If you stop writing while using this site it will either yell scream at you or start erasing your words, depending on which setting you are using.  This can be helpful for a first draft.  I use it regularly.  I'm a get it down and then go back and make it pretty kind of person."

Have any of you used these resources before?  What has been your experience?

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