When you are just starting out as a writer, it can be incredibly hard to gain any kind of momentum. You know you need to practice but with school, work, and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life, it isn't easy to take the time and just write. And what do you write about anyway? How do you know if you are getting any better? What can you do?
Well, we don't claim to have all the answers, but follow the tips below and you'll be on your way to becoming the writer you want to be.
1. Find your writing primetime
A writing primetime is the time (or times) of the day you feel the most motivated and creative. There are certain times of the day when you sit down to write and the words seem to flow from the page like magic... but there are other times when you stare at the page for hours without coming up with a single usable sentence. Finding your writing primetime allows you to pinpoint and take advantage of the hours of the day when words come easily while doing less creative tasks during times of literary famine.
How can you locate your most writing-worthy times of the day? This article does a great job of laying out the process, but the gist of it lies in recording data on yourself. Try to record things like your energy, focus, motivation, creativity, and availability, every hour of the day for a few weeks. In doing this, you should start to see patterns that you can follow to take full advantage of your best writing moments.
2. Write Everyday
There is really no way around this piece of advice. If you want to become a truly great writer you have to write every single day. There are going to be days where you feel like you have too much going on or you just are simply too tired. It doesn't matter. Suck it up and get some writing done. There are three easy ways you can make sure you fit it in to your schedule.
- Use other assignments as your writing time. The 5-page history paper you have to write might not seem like the creative challenge of the century, but as a writer, it is your job to make it a masterpiece. Put your all into writing papers like this and you can count the work as your daily piece of writing.
- Be ready to write at all times. Before class starts, while waiting in line, while riding the bus, while on break at work; take advantage of these daily lulls and you'll have a few pages done by the end of the day.
- Reward Yourself. It sounds dumb, but it really works. Tell yourself that if you write every day for a week you can buy that new pair of shoes you wanted or that new video game that just came out.
3. Be Consistent
Habits are hard to break. If you have the ability to write at the exact same time every day—do it. This will essentially train your brain to be ready to write when this time of day comes. After awhile, you won't have to consciously make yourself write, it will happen naturally. Eventually writing at this time in the day will become something you feel the need to do.
4. Write about what you don't know
Writers, especially young writers, have a tendency to write about what they know. Words come easier when you right about things you can relate to and situations you have personally been in. But I challenge you to write about what you don't know. Write about an experience you have never had or from a perspective you don't hold. Write as if you are anyone but yourself doing something you would never do. The new perspectives this will give you are irreplaceable, not to mention the exercise you'll be giving your imagination.
5. Experiment with different forums and formats
What is the number one thing you like to write? Short stories? Scripts? Essays? Articles? Whatever it is, take time away from it every now and then. Exploring new forums and formats can help you discover new ways of putting words together, how to condense and expand your writing, and how to describe and discuss things you never thought of.
6. Read...a lot
When aspiring to become a great writer, reading frequently is almost as important as writing frequently. Every time you read something you are essentially watching a demonstration. Every book, magazine, newspaper, etc., is like an instruction manual from a professional. It says: "Here I am, read me! This is how it's done." By reading frequently you will increase your vocabulary, increase your knowledge, and increase your overall ability to throw words on the page.
Look up words, look up situations, look up things you don't understand. We live in a world where knowledge is at our fingertips almost every second of every day, we just have to reach out and cease it. Don't tell yourself you'll look the word up later, do it now! You'll be wiser for it every time, and soon you'll be spouting off facts you didn't even know you knew.
8. Carry a pen and paper EVERYWHERE
You never know when a bout of inspiration or creativity is going to hit, so always carry something to write with. When you inevitably have an awesome idea, you'll be able to make a note of it. So tell your friends to hold on for a second, the two-eyed ogre with a major identity crisis is an idea that can't wait. Pull out your pen and journal and start writing.
9. Set the Mood
Sometimes, even when you are right in the middle of your primetime getting those first few words on the page can be difficult. For some reason, the words don't come and there is nothing you can do about it, right? Wrong. Setting the mood can help you get in the writing groove, you just have to find your triggers. For me it is a cup of tea and some 60's folk. For you it might be having the lighting just right and your favorite candle burning. Find the things that put you in a writing mood and you can kick writer's block to the curb.
10. Write Unapologetically
Writing unapologetically is by far the most important tip on this list. Some of your best work is sitting in a dump somewhere, I guarantee it. You have written pieces that could make a grown man cry and inspire the most beaten of individuals to rise to their feet. The only problem is...some of those pieces never made it off your desk. Be critical of yourself, yes, but don't be so critical that you give up on an idea before you have the first sentence down.
With writing you have the power to create a world of your own. You make the rules, set the laws... control reality. Don't let fear of someone else's opinion change your creation.
It isn't easy getting started, but once you put some of these tips into practice you should be on your way. Take it one tip at a time; one step at a time. Pretty soon you will have these things mastered.
Ready to learn more about writing? At CCH we offer a writing Emphasis. You can study every facet of the film world while focusing in on what is important to you, writing. Download our Application Checklist below to being your journey to becoming a CCH student and a professional writer.