You know that zone you get into when you’re doing something you enjoy? And it feels like time is going slowly when hours are actually passing by? That’s the state of mind where I like to be when I write; I do my best work there. The only problem is that the stress and weariness of school has been weighing down on me and my mind seems to prefer going to sleep over coming up with the next big fight scene. That being said, getting through editing and rewriting this past week has been rough on me. So to get some inspiration, I looked to Nathan Bransford’s blog. While browsing his website, I happened to come upon (if you haven’t guessed it yet) “Ten Commandments for the Happy Writer.” I found this article to be particularly helpful for me and am sure any writer can apply it to their own lives too, which is why I’d like to share it with you all! Ladies and gentlemen, the “Ten Commandments for the Happy Writer,” by Nathan Bransford:
First Commandment: “Enjoy the Present”
A good point Nathan makes here is about how often people play the “if only” game. For writer’s, it often sounds like, “if only I were published,” or “if only my book was a best seller.” For me personally, I know I play this game in my head all the time, jumping ahead of myself before I’m ready to move on with my writing. Then what’s the moral of this commandment? Peace can only be found in the present moment, not in what could happen six weeks into the future. To be a happy writer, you need to enjoy every step of the writing process while you’re experiencing it.
Second Commandment: “Maintain Your Integrity”
Nice and simple, don’t take short cuts! Nathan interpreted this to mean plagiarism, but I would like to extend the meaning to include plain old skipping out. It’s tempting to ignore those tedious tasks (like rereading twenty pages five times over, or going back to add more details for the fifth time in a row), but in the end, you’ll thank yourself for the time you committed to your work and how well it all turned out. If not, regrets, regrets, and more regrets. As Nathan put it in my favorite quote of the week, “[Shortcuts] may even work in the short-term, but unless you are Satan incarnate (and I hope you’re not), it will steadily chip away at your happiness and confidence, and your heart will shrivel and blacken into something they show kids in health class to scare them away from smoking.”
Third Commandment: “Recognize the forces that are outside of your control”
In other words, don’t blame yourself or the people around you if things take a bad turn. Everything happens by chance, which means, inevitably, everything won’t go the way you want them to. It’s a part of life and the best thing you can do is just accept it and move forward with the things you do have control over. In my case, a week full of math problems and biology readings are out of my control, but I do have the power to give myself enough rest before tackling the next pages of my story.
Fourth Commandment: “Don’t Neglect Your Friends and Family”
And why would you want to? I understand how good it can feel to get lost in the world you’ve created, but you’re writing isn’t worth losing any of your relationships over. It won’t kill you (or me) to step away from the laptop and to just take an hour, thirty minutes minimum, to make some dialogue with a non-fictional character. Writing comes second, not first.
Fifth Commandment: “Don’t Quit Your Day Job”
Don’t neglect the things you need to be doing in order to write. There are times when I’d prefer to toss my text books out the window, but school can’t be shoved aside for more time to focus on my novel. Where do you find the time then? During other times of the day, even if it means cutting into nap time, tv time, or however else you spend your time.
Sixth Commandment: “Keep up with Publishing Industry News”
This one probably won’t apply to me until I start focusing on the publishing process, but the point Nathan makes here is that it’s important to be informed and to know what you’re doing.
Seventh Commandment: “Reach out to Fellow Writers”
They know how hard you work, give good feedback and support, and enjoy what you do: writing! Sometimes even just talking with another writer can be good mental stimulation. I know joining Epiphanies, my school’s literary magazine, was when I was able to find some great poets and authors who I could bounce ideas off of.
Eighth Commandment: “Park Your Jealousy at the Door”
If another writer’s work is more successful than yours, don’t try to take their success away from them. I haven’t experienced this, and hopefully won’t, but do understand what it feels like to see someone else complete A+ material in thirty minutes when it takes me at least an hour to start out with B – work. You may not like the person, but they’re success is their success. Nathan sums this commandment up quite nicely in two sentences: “They’ve earned it. Even if they suck.”
Ninth Commandment: “Be Thankful For What You Have”
You’re a writer who has enough time to write! I get to blog for crying out loud! You’re doing what you enjoy most! Enough said.
Tenth Commandment: “Keep Writing”
No matter what’s happening around you, be it the greatest piece you’ve ever written or the worst one that you delete five seconds after it’s finished, the fourth school meeting you have during the academic week or the field hockey game you lost that afternoon, just keep writing. The solution to everything is, you guessed it, writing.
If you’d like to read Nathan’s article (which you should!), you can find it here with this link: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009/03/ten-commandments-for-happy-writer.html
And if it wasn’t enough to put a smile on your face, maybe “The Publishing Process in GIF Form,” will. Two words: just fabulous–http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2012/08/the-publishing-process-in-gif-form.html