Disclaimer: I am in no way a “real” writer in a professional sense, but I have done my fair share of writing gigs — writing pop culture articles, reporting on criminal trials, publishing academic essays, and now personal blogging. Yeah, it seems I’ve taken a step backwards, but I never intended to write professionally; it was just something I’d do because I genuinely enjoyed it. As I delve into my next project (more of a passion project, if anything), I’m starting to realize how my incidental stints in writing have changed how I do pretty much everything and taught me valuable lessons over the past few years.
Patience is key.
I’m not a patient person and writing can be frustrating for me at times because I can visualize the finished product, yet it takes me way longer than I’d like to put all my ideas down on paper and make them even somewhat coherent. Add in the time necessary to proofread and edit and have other people proofread and edit, and it’s an exhausting process. Sometimes what I’m writing doesn’t turn out exactly how I imagined, but because I spent so much time on it already, instead of taking the time to shape it into what I envisioned, I just submit/publish it anyways.
Rushing the writing process doesn’t do anyone any favors (unless you’re procrastinating on a paper and the deadline is in an hour, then you probably should rush). You won’t be satisfied with the finished product, and whoever’s reading it won’t be able to experience the work as fully as they could have if time had been taken to polish it. Take your time, but don’t waste your time.
The best ideas come when you least expect it.
Sometimes I’ll struggle to find something to write about and I’ll sit in front of a blank notebook or computer screen racking my brain for literally anything, but nothing comes of it. Then an idea will hit me hours, days, or weeks later when I’m listening to music, watching a movie, just zoning out — literally anything other than writing.
The creative process is different for everyone, but I’ve found it’s best for me to never force it and just let ideas come organically. And when an idea strikes, run with it. You won’t love every idea; most of them probably won’t materialize into much before you scrap them, but there will be one or two that turn out to be gems after a little polishing.
There’s no right or wrong way to write.
OK, technically there is a right and wrong way to write—grammatically, syntactically, etc. But there’s no right or wrong way to tell the story you want to tell. I used to hold myself back from writing because I’d think of all the other people who could articulate my ideas better than I could. And there certainly are people who could. But I’ve come to realize that nobody perceives the world in exactly the same way I do nor can anybody articulate their ideas about the world in exactly the same way I do. Sure, the way you tell your story may not resonate with everybody, but that doesn’t make it “wrong.” Be confident in your writing and it’ll show.
“No one is you, and that is your power.”
You can’t control how people respond to your work.
This is by far the hardest and most important lesson I’ve learned. I used to care so much about what people thought about my work, obsessively checking the amount of likes, comments, and shares an article got. (Let’s be honest, I still do this sometimes.) If I was really proud of a piece of work and people didn’t react to it with the same kind of enthusiasm I felt, I’d feel really discouraged and I’d think of all the things I did wrong and what I needed to do differently next time.
And that’s just it: no matter what you do, you have no control over how people receive your work. You can write something with the sole purpose of trying to go viral and it can flop. You can write something you think no one but you will care about and find out that it resonates with a ton of people. All you can do is put your best work out there and hope for the best. If you’re proud of your work, then it shouldn’t matter if zero people or a thousand people read it because at least it came from a genuine place and meant something to you.