You may have seen that we have already posted tips about making art your hobby; now we’ve created the following post for writers looking for some guidance for their craft. This is suitable for creators of poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and should be useful for amateur and experienced writers alike.
Whether you wish to write in a shed like Roald Dahl, or a café like J.K. Rowling, it is important to select a location that works for you. Some people need silence in order to concentrate, whilst others will want to watch the world go by around them in order to spark their creativity. It is important to figure out whether you are the sort of writer who experiences the world and then goes home to write alone, or whether you have to write while you are out in the world itself. Make your work space a comfortable one. If you are writing by hand, make sure you have a nice Parker pen and thick paper which can survive all of the crossing out that you will inevitably do as part of the writing process. If you are typing your work, make sure that you have a comfortable chair and that you are staring at the screen from a suitable angle in order to ease eye strain and muscle ache. I recommend blinking rapidly every so often as well as taking your eyes on figure of eight journeys over a blank wall in order to lubricate them so that they do not tire too quickly from the screen. If chocolate will help you to be productive, don’t deny yourself; surround yourself with whatever you need to help you work effectively.
Not all works are essays or historical fictions, but research is always required when it comes to writing. You must know the context in which your work is set, and you must know the material you are working with. For many writers, this knowledge will come from experiences out in the real world. All art forms are, to an extent, a mimesis of reality, and therefore you have to be a careful observer of reality in order to be a successful writer. For many, this involves carrying a notebook around at all times and recording observations of their surroundings. I encourage you to keep notes of interesting things that happen in your life. These do not need to be big life changing or melodramatic moments. These can simply be a slightly strange thing somebody said or an unusual style of architecture you came across. Anything that interests you – make a note; it might just come in handy later. It is also helpful to write down any phrases, lines, concepts or images that you think of so that you already have some starting points when it comes to the writing process.
Learn to love editing
When I was a very young teenage writer, people used to tell me that the writing process was all about editing. I remember being severely disappointed by such remarks as, to me, the intense outpouring of emotion which came with the first draft of any piece was what was exciting about writing. In contrast, the process of reading over and cutting half of what I had written afterwards seemed dull, and quite frankly painful. However, over time, especially over the course of my student years, I developed a love of editing. There is something incredible about spending ages on just one line to try out various combinations of words and figurative techniques in order to create the best version of the line possible. I have also found that it can be quite liberating to cut large chunks of your work, because what you are left with is often so much better than the rambling, repetitive and over-done first draft. Learning to edit well is an essential part of the writing process, and must be practiced in order to be perfected. Editing is a lot easier if you acquire feedback from your readers so that you know what is working well and what needs improving. Readers will notice things that you won’t about your manuscript because they have the luxury of the necessary distance from your work. Try not to be disheartened by criticism, take it all on board and make a note of every comment so that you know what to do when it comes to editing. Other people’s ideas will also enable you to work out which styles and techniques are most effective and enable you to utilize these more as your writing develops.
Tradition and form
As an artist of any kind, you should also be aware of your position within the history of that medium. Make sure you learn about the past periods and movements, such as Romanticism and Modernism. By reading the works of other writers you will be able to perfect your technical ability by learning from the masters who have gone before you, and you will also be able to place your work within a history of art production. This will help you to understand how you might deploy traditional forms, and how you might subvert them, as will be discussed in the next paragraph. Having a network of predecessors from which to be inspired may even manifest itself in your work as you reference and allude to them through intertextual content. Form will structure your writing, guide you to respond to the traditions within your medium and allow you to enter into a dialogue with the past which is always incredibly thought-provoking.
Innovation and freedom
Even though I have commented on the importance of tradition and form, it is essential that your work does not merely imitate the past. There must be some element of innovation when it comes to literary production. This is where you have the freedom to challenge the expectations associated with form. This way, art is constantly refreshed and made relevant to its contemporary moment. Most literary periods are reactions against the ones that went before, and most attempt to do something radically new whilst still learning from the techniques and expertise of the past. It is important for you to liberate your imagination and develop your own distinctive voice. This will allow you to create this sense of ‘newness’ which is so prized within the Arts. However, you will only be able to achieve this distinctive individuality if you are aware of your indebtedness to your predecessors, and your place within a long history of textual production.
I hope that this will help you to find a suitable location in which to write, and that it will support you to research and edit your work effectively. Finally, I hope that you find the artist’s inescapable tension between tradition and innovation, form and freedom as something productive which can guide and inspire your work, and help you to situate yourself within a network and history of writing.
Amber Kennedy, Editor-in-Chief