Valuable advice from my favorite author.
There was a time in my life where I took a hiatus from writing, and after I reconnected with that part of myself that fell in love with writing in the first place, it was like I had to sweet-talk my muse into opening up to me again. I’ve found that the more I write, the more easily I come up with new things that I want to explore and write about, and when I’m not writing for a significant period of time as I was when I fell away from writing for a while, I’ve found that picking it back up again isn’t as easy.
Years ago, I picked up a book by my favorite author, Terry Brooks, called Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life, and I devoured it like it was the last book on writing I’d ever get to read again! It was published in 2003, and I had been reading his Shannara and Landover series for years already. During that time in my life, I was writing, but I wasn’t as engrossed in my writing as I am now. It wasn’t a book that I cared to read at that point in my high school life. It wasn’t until I decided to make writing a more regular craft in my life that I decided to pick it up and find what Brooks had to offer.
I have a multitude of books on the writing craft that I read and re-read, but Brooks’ writing always hits home for me, and I find myself really connecting with the advice that he has to offer about his own writing style. As such, I have returned to his writing advice several times over the years, and despite already knowing what it has to offer, I still find myself able to turn to it when I need a writing pick-me-up. With that being said, I’ve decided to share some of what I consider to be the best pieces of insight from the book in hopes that it will connect with others as it does for me!
“The muse whispers to you when she chooses, and you can’t tell her to come back later, because you quickly learn in this business that she might not come back at all.”
For me, this bit of advice goes back to that time in my life when I put my writing down and all but left it behind. I had told myself that I didn’t have time to write because I was too busy writing academic papers and writing up various documents for work. I quickly learned when I decided to come back to writing that getting that creative flow going again was more difficult at first. I had neglected my muse, and I had to rebuild that familiarity with my writing styles and patterns all over again, which leads me into the next nugget of advice:
“Getting ideas is the least difficult part of the process. What’s hard, really hard, is making those ideas come together in a well-conceived, compelling story. Writing is a craft. You can learn it, and you can learn to do it better.”
There are always ideas swimming around in my head, and those that I believe are worthwhile and could be worth exploring down the road, I write down in my writing notebook for safe-keeping. What I learned after I stopped writing for a while and came back to it was that I had to put the training wheels on all over again and work my way back to the writer I was when I left writing behind.
Writing is like playing the piano or some other skill — if you practice, you get better, but if you neglect practicing regularly, your skills may suffer for it as well. I remember picking up my notebook for the first time and sitting at my desk for hours trying to think of where to start. It wasn’t writer’s block, because the ideas were there. It was the familiar flow of writing that I had to refamiliarize myself with again.
Believe it or not, success or failure is entirely up to you. Your attitude will set the tone for everything that happens. You are the one in control.
It’s easy to get in the habit of blaming other circumstances for whether or not I decide to commit to my writing. Just as I did when I decided to drop writing before and blamed it on all of the other academic and professional responsibilities I had on my plate; however, had I not been looking for an excuse not to commit to writing, I could have found the time to prioritize writing in my schedule. It was my attitude and my thinking that ultimately led to my writing break.
Every once in a while, I still find myself getting stuck in a rut with my writing, and it can be frustrating. What I have to remember is that my attitude about my writing sets the stage for whether or not I will commit to the craft. When I push through the rough patches, I find myself with a reignited passion and commitment to my writing.
For now, I’ll share one more nugget of Brooks’ advice, and I feel it’s one of the best sentences from the book.:
“If you don’t think there is magic in writing, you probably won’t write anything magical.”
I have it written in various places where I know I might find myself writing (i.e. the desk in my bedroom, the recliner in the living room, my office at work, the notepad app on my phone, etc.). It reminds me that writing is magical, but I have to believe in myself and in my ability to create that magic with my writing. Whenever I’m craving some quick inspiration, I reach for this quote.
What are some of the best pieces of writing advice that you’ve collected? Respond to this piece, and let me know. I’d love to hear from you!