DON’T DO THIS: Things Writers Should Avoid

By no means will I ever tell you how to “be” a writer. No matter your preferred style of writing- poetry, screenwriting, short story, etc.- I will never tell how to “do” what the craft that I love so much. Too often, I am told how to live my life; others are quick to judge me and how I chose to be happy. They offer petty words without the thought, perhaps, I see things differently than them. So why would I do the same for others? Exactly. However, I’ve been writing seriously for some time now. I’m not published (I wish!), I’m not making money from it, but I am genuinely serious about it. And I’ve picked up a few things, learned a few lessons, and I want to share them. My personal philosophy is to let people be, unless I feel they’re doing harm. I’ll never tell you “hey you have to do this” or “do this or you’ll never be a good writer” but perhaps I can still say, “here are some things to avoid.” As this would probably be a long list and would absolutely bore you, here’s my top three.

Unwanted Solicitations

Just like you wouldn’t want a stranger sending you packages you didn’t ask for, you don’t want to send people your work and say, “read this!” While it is good to promote your work, it is not good to send it to people without their consent. Some people will blatantly block you, some will tell you straight up they’ll never read your work, and others will avoid all interaction with you. Unless someone asks to see your work, do not send it to them. Instead, promote it on social media. I’ve considered writing a blog post on the subject in the past, but find social media promoting my work on social to be a challenge, I decided against it. But after a quick Google search, I found this article, which has a lot of excellent information.

Harshly Judging Your Own Work

One of my many… many struggles when I sit down at my laptop to write is that little voice inside my head going, “um… this sucks.” I can ignore this voice- often, I drown it out by listening to music- but there are days when I just can’t. I let this voice creep into my conscious mind and slam open the door like an uninvited guest. I let it win.

How many stories have I lost to this voice? One too many. Any number is too much.

How many ideas have I gotten rid of because of this voice? I lost count a long time ago.

I hate it.

Yes, hate. I can’t think of anything else in the world I hate more because this stupid voice in my head telling me I’ll never be a good writer or that I’ll never be published or that no one will ever read my own.

This is something that all of us need to avoid. When we sit down to write, when we start a document, or finish a draft, we can’t let this voice interfere. We must power through. We all have stories worth telling- so tell them.

 

Being A Harsh Critic

I’m sure you heard this a thousand times before, but it’s worth repeating another thousand times: there is a difference between insulting someone’s work and critiquing it. Perhaps this would be better with a visual representation. 

Good critique: I like how this piece ended, but I feel that there are a few elements which you could expand on.

Bad critique: This work sucks! It makes little sense!

The difference between these two should be obvious: one compliments the writer while giving them a suggestion for improvement, while the other tears the writer down and makes them feel like their work isn’t worthwhile. Don’t be a harsh critic. Don’t tear people down. Instead, compliment a work, give suggestions. When someone comes to you and asks if you’ll critique their work, it means that they trust you to give honest feedback. And if someone critiques your work, don’t take it personally. Every writer needs a little improvement, myself included. And if you think you don’t, if you think everything you write is perfect, then that is a problem. It means you’ve never looked back at your work or had someone tell you that your amazing piece could use some polishing.

As a writer, we could all use a helping hand, especially those of us just starting out. Don’t ruin it for others and don’t ruin it for someone else.