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May 12, 2014

4 Lessons for the Budding Writer. ~ Dorothy Hunter

Jared Stahl/Pixoto

As an aspiring writer, I commit more mistakes than I’d like to admit.

But for every misstep, I make sure that I learn something from it. Though it’s fine to learn along the way, there are still some lessons on writing that I wish someone had told me before hand.

Budding writers need all the guidance they can get.

Though passion is the most important drive writers need to succeed, some motivation and guidance from trust-worthy mentors are also welcome. I didn’t have a consistent mentor when I was just starting out but if I did, I wished I’d have been told the following:

1. Some of the harshest criticisms are the most constructive.

Reading a negative feedback never feels good. Stomachs may lurch when reading a criticism about our work. We try to be mature about it, but we can’t deny that someone criticizing our work hurts.

In high school, I only looked at the grades I got for my essays and completely disregarded the comments written in red ink. It didn’t sit well with me so I avoided it. Unfortunately, it’s a practice I clung to until my second year in college.

However, years of writing have made me realize that some of the harshest comments offer the most useful advice to improve our writing. So instead of skipping the feedback, I dive into. It may sting, but it’s what we need to improve as writers.

2. One of the best ways to cure writer’s block is to keep writing.

Sleep it off.

Take a walk.

Read a book.

Don’t think about it.

That is just some of the advice I got when I asked for ways to beat writer’s block. However, the one that’s proven most effective is to sit down and just keep writing, even rubbish, until something good comes out.

This may seem like weird advice, but it actually works.

If we’re on a deadline, we probably can’t afford to go for a walk, especially if we only have less than three hours to finish it. Instead, we just keep writing whatever comes to mind until a brilliant idea comes up.

And remember what Neil Gaiman said,

“Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.”

There’s no other way to do it.

3. We will eventually find our niche.

I wanted to write anything and everything. I wanted to write a young adult novel and a compelling poem and an inspiring essay. It frustrated me when I realized that I couldn’t write poems as easily as essays. And sadly, writing short stories is not something I enjoy. But I realize now that it’s okay.

Writers are free to explore different writing formats and styles until they find one that fits them like a glove.

We can turn frustrations into writing practices until we find the niche that truly makes us happy. We don’t have to be incredibly good at it instantly. But with enough practice and motivation, we can become good at our chosen craft.

4. We must read more than we write.

As writers we must absorb everything we can from the world around us. More importantly, we must absorb great lessons from everything we read—novels, news clippings, blogs, magazine features—everything.

We surround ourselves with words, immersing ourselves in language, until we put down what we’re reading and the only thing we can think of doing next is write.

If I could go back to my younger writer self, I like to think that I’d tell her everything on this list. But then again, each of these lessons was acquired through experience and a lot of mistakes. So maybe it’s not so bad that I learned them along the way and not when I first started writing.

What makes writing so exciting is that there is always room for growth, no matter how many years of experience we have under our belt.

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Apprentice editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Jared Stahl/Pixoto

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Dorothy Hunter