How [NOT] to be a Writer

My top five tips for NOT writing successfully:-

  1. Wait for the muse to descend.
Blank by Kristian Bjornard courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

Get over yourself! If you want to make it as a writer you will have to learn to write even when you feel like doing anything but. Perhaps especially then. The words hewn from the rocks of perseverance can sometimes turn into something exquisite. More often than not, however, your prose will have all the feeling of a park bench but at least you put…something…on…the…page, however much a struggle it might have been. Somewhere within will be a nugget you can work with another day, a couple of words, a sentence if you are lucky. It might be the hint of an idea you can chase down and develop or a new plot twist you hadn’t imagined. One thing is guaranteed, if you don’t drag yourself to the keyboard or put pen to paper in the first place you will never find out!

  1. Wait until you have the perfect study/office/work space.
Deskspace by Invernodreaming courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

The number of times I have heard this said and turned away with a wry smile. We all know the story of J K Rowling sitting in a café and writing. If you want to write, you will. It’s that simple. Monastery like peace and quiet exists very rarely outside of anywhere that isn’t…well, a monastery. You’ll find a way. Dog barking at the postman? A minor inconvenience. Kids arguing? No problem. Laundry piling up? Hey ho you won’t be going out anyway so no one will know you’re still in your PJs.

If, however, the stationery catalogue is constantly calling you with its glossy pages and handy gadgets you just don’t know how you can live without, it’s either displacement activity to avoid doing anything really hard like writing [which is a whole separate blog post] or this writing life may not be for you. If you spend more time planning your new office space than you do working on your plot then it’s a safe bet you’re in love with the idea of being a writer rather than the reality of being one.

  1. Wait until you have more time.
Clockwork gold
Clockwork Gold by GollyGForce courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

If I had a pound for every time I’d heard that one! Trust me, it won’t happen. Life isn’t like that. It’s messy and complicated and full of compromises and you’ll just have to plunge in like the rest of us and carve out a few precious hours away from all your other commitments. Will friends and relatives grumble? Perhaps, but if they love you, they’ll understand. Will that work project wait a bit longer? Definitely but you shouldn’t be working on your nine to five out of office hours anyway. Will you miss your favourite TV shows? Sure but that’s what catch up TV was invented for.

The only time you’ll have that magical, mystical “more time” is if you are suddenly made redundant or you retire. If it’s the former, you’ll be so spooked into finding new paid employment that it will take all your energy and so it should if you need a job to pay the bills. If it’s the latter, most retired people I know are busier than me, so dream on!

  1. Wait for the perfect idea.
Question Mark
Question Mark by Marco Bellucci courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

Ah yes, the perfect idea. The perfect idea is as elusive as waiting for the fabled muse to descend [see answer 1 above]. All of us will be familiar with the concept of the perfect idea. Some of us may even have experienced it and sweaty palmed grabbed our notebooks, electronic or otherwise, and captured it. Most of us will have looked at the perfect idea the next day and wondered what on earth we were on about. Very few people are fortunate enough to see it through to completion. Should you be one of those lucky, lucky people [and the numbers will be infinitesimally small] give yourself a pat on the back and then pour yourself a stiff drink because you’re going to need it. One perfect idea does not a career make. You’ll need another and then another and another. Believe me, they won’t all be perfect but most will be good enough.

  1. Ask for criticism and then reject everything you are told.
Three Wise Monkeys
See No Evil Speak No Evil Hear No Evil by “Japanexperterna” to courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

Hey you may be an undiscovered genius but the chances are you can always learn something from constructive critiques but you have to be willing for your ego to take a hit first. Lower your defensive shield and put down your weapons. Listen, really listen, to what you are being told. Is there a kernel of truth there? Does it make just the teensiest bit of sense? Have you heard something similar from a couple of other people who you mentally dispatched to the swamp of idiots? Maybe, just maybe, they weren’t such idiots after all.

Next week – My top five tips for those who are serious about being a writer.

Today’s blog is the latest in my Flower Seller Thursday collection of writing related blogs leading up to publication day of my first novel The Flower Seller on Thursday 2nd June 2016 #FlowerSellerThursday

The Flower Seller Kindle edition is now available to pre-order from Amazon via my website

The Flower Seller by Ellie Holmes



4 thoughts on “How [NOT] to be a Writer

  1. Terry Tyler 20/03/2016 / 11:16 am

    Whenever I read all these articles about ‘when can I call myself ‘a writer’?’ I always think, ‘does it matter? Is that what’s important?’ I’ve published 12 books without debating whether or not I am ‘a writer’. Quote Zadie Smith ‘There is no ‘writers’ lifestyle. All that matters is the words on the page’.


    • ellieholmesauthor 20/03/2016 / 2:35 pm

      So true but there are so many people out there who claim they cannot put the words on the page without all the accoutrements of a writers’ life. Just turn up every day and get it done isn’t as appealing.


  2. Deborah Wallace 21/03/2016 / 2:16 pm

    Thanks for a great article, Ellie. All so very true. I write everyday, even when the house is noisy and I have no idea what to write. Sometimes just putting on the laptop can kick start creativity. I follow the monthly writing challenge, a commitment to write 500 words a day. Most times I exceed that, but if I only manage 500 then I’ve done something rather than nothing!


    • ellieholmesauthor 21/03/2016 / 8:29 pm

      Thanks for your kind words. It’s so important to write every day if you can (that forms part of my next blog post) and having a realistic target helps enormously because when you exceed it you feel proud of yourself. Unrealistic targets just leave you feeling depressed and unmotivated so it’s good to find the right balance. Thanks for taking the time to comment.


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