Who you are as a writer has grown from your life experiences, your passions, your soil. Your fertilizing and weed pulling, your garden. Your writing won’t be like anyone else’s nor will your career or daily routine. This may appear self-evident, but we all compare ourselves to others, especially the best-selling writers. We want to be like them: successful, book in the front of the store, great story tellers. So we think we need to emulate them, their routine, their stories, and their style. But we are not them; we didn’t come from the same root stock, soil or climatic conditions.
To grow the unique writer within, we need to look inward, and then take steps to cultivate our writer self. Use the following questions and tips as guides.
Question #1: Where do you come from? What is your background, family, education, your dreams, your cultural influences, that thing that happened to you, that thing you overheard, those family expectations, the whispers of your imagination? Be specific, be general, be wacky, be curious about yourself.
Question #2: What kind of writing do you want to do and do now, and why–what is your true motivation? Know why you write and don’t take the first answer you come up with as the only answer. Dig deeper, listen harder, be truthful with yourself.
Question #3: What is your voice, your style, and what are your strengths, your weaknesses as a writer? You are on a voyage of discovery and affirmation. Accept who you are. You are beautiful.
Tip #1: Goal Setting. Set reasonable goals for yourself, challenging enough to keep you interested and motivated. And attainable so that you can actually have progress.
Tip #2: Tracking. Grow discipline day by day, word by word, page by page. Track your progress. “Winners keep score,” a friend of mine said, a successful small business owner. Tracking increases awareness and encourages accountability. The biggest bonus is that it signals your subconscious that you mean business: writing is not a whim but a daily habit that you are coaching yourself on.
Tip #3: Compassion. Above all be gentle, have compassion for the writer within, the writer you are growing, whether you are starting out, or have been at this for years. Treat yourself no differently, especially if you’re having a bad day, week, or month.
Tip #4: Trouble-shooting. Are there unhelpful pests–other people’s thoughts, ideas, beliefs that are not your own, or fatigue, overwork, not enough play–invading your garden? You can change many things that affect adversely your writer within–learn to say “No”. Get out and do something new, something to expand your heart, mind or soul. Do you need to move your body to counteract an overactive mind?
Tip #5: Patience. The garden does grow itself. We don’t stand by it every minute of every day and say, “Go roses! Go lavender! Grow!” It happens organically, because of the proper conditions–the soil, the sun, the rain, and the seed. We shape the garden by our hand. We care. We nurture. Regularly. As with gardening, so with writing. Honestly, why do you write? Could you not write? Probably not. In that case, make peace with yourself, and write. But be gentle. Plants do not grow faster if you pull on them. That would kill them. The most you can do is write regularly, with compassion, with awareness, and don’t give up.