Susan Sontag states that writers are people who pay attention the world. We as writers have a special talent to take worldly and personal experiences that we have and document them.
Writing is not only an art form and and passion, but a lifestyle and a career choice. I recently had the opportunity to take and finish a semester’s class with an author. As someone who wants to write for National Geographic one day, the seminars were insightful and full of helpful building blocks to writing. I hope to now share some of the wisdom that stuck with me, to my fellow writer lovers.
The Writer Lifestyle
American Author, Jeff Benedict compares writing to growing a garden. A garden needs to be and should be cared for. Writing should be nurtured so that your skill sets and abilities as writer continue to flourish, to grow.
“The writing process should be recursive; it should never end.”Jeff Benedict, paraphrased
You should be able to go through research phases for projects and ideas, engage in questions and timeline training and composition growth exercises, and most anything in between to write well. One of the most important pieces of advice Jeff gave, was to write everyday. “Practice, practice, practice. Writing is a grind. It’s work. It’s not just a hobby and it’s not just a lifestyle, it’s a career choice.”
As a writer, we all ought to invest in the practice and develop a passion for the art. We should be able to devote our time to it and not let writing milestones dwindle.
“Practice, practice, practice. Writing is a grind. It’s work. It’s not just a hobby and it’s not just a lifestyle, it’s a career choice. Writing is discovering a formula; you should find it, use it, and stick with it.”Jeff Benedict, paraphrased
In learning how to write well, and write professionally, we start to run into bumps in the road. Writing can be tricky—in fact it often is. And we all experience it. We call it writer’s block. We all know the feeling of being unable to start a paper, an article, the story you keep postponing. I guess these are fairly universal feelings. But Jeff Benedict, has a lot to say about dealing with writer’s block.
The ‘Writer’s Block’ Dilemma
First, there’s the general writing block dilemma.
Jeff Benedict explains that the way to deal with writer’s block is by starting with what you know—what you already know.
“You don’t need something really profound or complex. You just need to start somewhere.”Jeff Benedict, paraphrased
Benedict says that starting simple is really going to be your best bet. Writing the sentence to refine later is a key to success in the writing journey.
After you’ve officially begun the writing process, it’s time to figure out where your story chapter, article, paper, etc., is going, and where it’s supposed to go. Benedict explains that starting somewhere—in fact anywhere—launches where the writing’s purpose will go. He describes that writing successful pieces and stories comes in when “you just start.”
But conquering writer’s block often invites a whole different story of complications, like, the worry factor.
Benedict explains that it’s normal and universal to worry about the quality of your writing. Worrying about putting something good to the page is really common.
The Worry Factor
From what I understand, we can use fear to motivate us, or hold us back. In psychology, it’s said that real fear is the gut intuition of human beings, and our gut can actually save our lives. Fear gives us a jolt in energy, and can turn the logical side of our brain off so that we just act instead of overthink. Here’s Benedict’s take:
“Fear should be a motivator to try harder to continue writing something you can be proud of. We should all dare to suck.”Jeff Benedict, paraphrased
Benedict also simply says, “get over it.” As a writer, you learn the importance in taking the chance to write all of your ideas down somewhere; because if we don’t write anything due to being afraid, “you will always have nothing.” After that initial start, Benedict goes over the concept of professional submissions. He explains that when we submit work, we sit and wait for the editing portion of our pieces. But it’s really normal to worry about editor cuts and thoughts. Benedict believes that great writers will learn to take advantage of criticism. Meaning we use it to push us further to reach success instead of letting criticism bum us out.
“The goal is to take the given advice, to wait and see what the possible outcomes of the experience can be.”Jeff Benedict, paraphrased
“Sometimes you have to restart.”Jeff Benedict
Writer’s need to normalize restarting their work! Benedict shared his story with me in one of my seminar’s, from his 2018’s biography, Tiger Woods. He says,
“In just a few months time, I compiled over 4000 pages of content for this book, that in another few months time, became a 400 page book instead.”Jeff Benedict
Benedict dealt with rejection from his editor’s during the entire process. The editor’s at some point also told Benedict to scrap the found content to find a different perspective. He says that no matter what, those draft’s are going to get sent back. So with that being said, give it your best shot. Write what you’re going to write. Submit your take. It doesn’t have to be perfect; in fact it’s not going to be, and that’s OK.
“You have to work through it. Find a better direction, change the point of view. No matter what, people are going to be critical. Agents and publications are often critical of the writing you’ll do.”Jeff Benedict, paraphrased
Benedict explained the concept that criticism often results in creating something great because of it, or giving the goal up because it got too hard. To be a great writer, you have to endure all of the trial and error that comes with it. You don’t get better at something that you don’t practice. We all have opportunities to learn from the mistakes we make to help push us even more to create something even better than the first draft we sent in.
Where do you want to stand? Which side do you want to end up on?
If writers treat writing like a passion and an art form, there is nothing that they won’t be able to go do. Learning to write is also learning to work with all of the possibilities of failure, rejection, exhaustion, anxiety, and choosing to carry on anyway.
Just start. Begin the writing journey, the process. It’s going to be worth it no matter where you end up.
“Nothing comes from nothing. Everything comes from something.”Winnie the Pooh