Chill out, Carley.
I know you’d love to be the next Jack Kerouac, J.D. Salinger, or Dave Eggers, but RE-LAX. Has anything ever been about becoming a copy of what already exists? No. That’s now what you want for yourself. Grab a cup of coffee, drop the ego, let go of the expectations.
Let’s start with a piece of paper…
No, NOT a computer. Close your laptop. I know where this is going. You’ll open a word document, check your email, tweet something inspiring, and check Facebook ten times. Let’s kick it old school with a pencil…no, a pen. You hate pencils. You always smudge your words. Yeah, yeah, erasers are cool and all, but you need a pen, a nice blue Uniball pen that glides across the paper smoother than a puck on ice.
Stop thinking about what you WANT to write. Just write. Doesn’t matter what you write about as long as it’s the truth. Is someone pissing you off? Great. Write about it. Did your boyfriend dump you? Great. Write about it. Did some jerk off cut you off this morning, causing you to spill scalding hot coffee on the crotch of your white pants? Write about it. You’ll feel better after. You don’t have to publish any of it, just get it out, or you’ll go bloody mad.
Now you’ve gotten that out of the way, what do you WANT to write about? Do it. Scribble down ideas, notes, doodle, play tic tac toe with yourself and win every time. Do whatever you have to do if it helps you find inspiration, but don’t stop writing.
This next part is SO important. It is vital not only for producing quality work, but to your sanity and general well-being. Take a break.
b) Go to the bathroom
c) Grab your camera. Photograph
e) Play guitar
f) Eat something
g) Drink some water
h) Drink a beer
i) Drink tea
j) Laugh at something
Do not complete b) and c) at the same time.
That would be weird.
Just take a mental break. The more mentally strung out and exhausted you are, the more frustrated you will become, and the less you will want to write. You have to WANT to write. Don’t ever let writing become something that you HAVE to do. The minute writing starts to feel like a chore, pick one of the above activities, and walk away from your work.
Put space between you and your work. It’s like a relationship. If the two of you sit attached at the hip all week, you’ll grow to resent each other. I promise your work will give you the props you rightfully deserve if you give each other a break.
Come back an hour later, a day later, two days later, and pick it up again.
This time, I give you permission to sit at your computer. I give you permission to put on some music. I do not give you permission to put on the television. If there is an all day marathon of NCIS or The Big Bang Theory on television, you won’t get any work done. Find that soft focus music…Ed Sheeran, Bon Iver, or some good Soul.
Otis Redding. Always Otis Redding.
NOT LMFAO or PITBULL.
NEVER LMFAO or PITBULL.
Ever. It shouldn’t even be on your iPod.
Start typing. Don’t edit as you go along, that is the quickest way to shoot yourself in the foot. Be honest. Don’t write what you think others want to hear, use no voice but your own, and don’t over analyze your thoughts.
Refer to your notes, but don’t simply regurgitate them.
Let your notes spark a greater picture.
The greater picture will speak for itself when you’re finished.
Once you feel like you’ve spilled it all out, and you can see it all on the screen, edit.
Remember grammar and punctuation.
There is an art to saying something complex with fewer words.
I realize that sentence about the beautiful, breathtaking, statuesque, exquisite tree is poetic and one of your favorites, but it’s really long. That is a lot of adjectives. Calm down. Real talk, you only need one adjective for a noun. If you’re going to use two, make sure they relay different concepts. Everybody is going to know you abused the thesaurus option in Microsoft Word.
Don’t be afraid to cut your work up. It’s not going to hurt it.
Chop it up, re arrange it, put the beginning where the end is.
Play jigsaw with it until it reads the way you want it to.
Read it out loud.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Ask yourself, your friends, your loved ones, your gold fish, anybody who will listen.
Gain clarity. Reflect. Is this what you wanted?
If it’s not what you wanted, fix it.
Go after what you want, it’s the only way you’ll be happy with the work you produce.
Celebrate when you’re finished.
Get your victory dance on, because you just created something one of a kind.
Now stop! Hammer time. Can’t touch this.