Starting Advice for New Writers.
by Elizabeth Von Loh
I remember when I first decided to take writing seriously, I googled “How do I write?” I sincerely thought I would come across advice that encapsulated all my doubts in a single answer, wrapped up in a neat little bow and everything. I’m still a young and new writer, but since that initial, naive Google search, I’ve learned a little about writing and have gathered what advice I would have wanted to hear when I began my writing journey.
There is no single answer or quick fix to writing.
That Google search led me down a path riddled with more questions, of more doubt regarding how to write, and I worried because I thought that other writers had the process all figured out. But that’s the key thing many new writers, including myself, forget: writing is a process. A messy one, to be sure, but a process all the same. Like sculptors shaping clay, we must get our hands dirty, forming and reforming words until they create some semblance of a finished work, only to throw them into the kiln and watch them change again. Likewise, we ourselves as writers don’t start out fully formed; we are shaped by the process, and a single answer won’t transform us the way time, dedication, and practice will. Molding ourselves into the writers we want to become requires patience and embracing the messy process with the realization that there is no single answer or quick fix to writing. There is only the process.
Start where you’re at.
So, if writing is a process, where does one begin? Personally, the start of my writing journey felt like trying to use a map to navigate in the dark. I had an idea of where I wanted to go, but no detailed guide on how to arrive at my destination. So, where do you start? Start where you’re at. American novelist Louis L’Amour said to “start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” While L’Amour’s quote references the process of physically writing, his words can also be applied to the writing process as a whole. Without the initial turning on of the faucet, the choice to begin, we remain at a standstill and improvement is impossible. Progression only becomes possible with a forward step. Don’t worry about having everything figured out. The path may remain unclear, the exact direction uncertain, but starting where you’re at, no matter where it is, allows the writing journey to begin. Trust for the rest of the process to fall into place.
Write for you.
The destination of the process for most writers is to get published. Yet at the beginning of our writing journey, much of what we write may not seem worthy of being put out into the world. I have experienced doubt that I will never be talented enough to be published, and this uncertainty bashes my writing confidence like waves battering against the hull of a ship. This doubt threatens to engulf and capsize me before I ever reach my destination, and I think that many new writers feel the same. We must learn how to navigate this storm of doubt by writing for ourselves.
Stephen King, in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, says to “Write with the door closed. Rewrite with the door open.” Start by writing for you, as if the story unfolds for only your eyes. This lifts the burden of thinking our work has to be perfectly polished. Because it won’t be. Remember, like clay, writers are shaped by the process; time and experience mold our writing into more polished products. By turning inward, focus is put into the actual formation rather than the end result. As a new writer, it’s important not to forget the development which comes along the way. Write to form your style. Write without the pressure of being perfect. Write for you.
Develop a superiority complex.
Along with writing for ourselves, we must believe in ourselves as new writers. I had the honor of attending a workshop by Chloe Gong, author of These Violent Delights, where she gave advice to novice writers by chronicling her experience as a young writer herself. One piece of advice she gave that struck me was to “develop a superiority complex.” Tell yourself that you are talented. Your writing is worthy of being read. If you have to write these statements a thousand times to ingrain them in your mind, then do it. Pin them above your desk. Keep them fresh in your thoughts. This doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement, but confidence goes a long way in developing your writing. Chase that limiting doubt away and pursue confidence instead. To start the writing journey, we must believe in ourselves at every step along the way.
Being a writer at any stage is extremely difficult, but I think there is an additional weight of doubt felt by new writers. There is not only the question of “How do I write?” but also the question of “Am I worthy enough to write?” While the first question may not have a simple answer, the second one does. Yes. Years of experience or not, you are worthy of being a writer no matter what stage you’re at. Trust in the process, my friends.
Follow Elizabeth on Instagram- @zabe_writes