Aileen On Writing

A few of my friends asked about my writing process so I've put together my Top 10 Musts for Writing. These are things I've learned from various classes, mentors & books on writing.

1. Have a Room of One's Own

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Virginia Woolf was right. Many times I see talented, amazing writers in my classes. They vary from students to retirees, to single moms to young professionals. One thing I often hear as a complaint from my fellow writers is: I can't write because of obligations, it's too loud/busy, there's no room in my house. Create a nook, put up lovely pictures on the wall, a space just for you. I know my own writing only took off when I claimed a room in my then-townhouse, away from my children and partner. It is always free of clutter and only houses papers and decor that are related to my writing and/or inspires me.

2. Invest in your craft

And I don't just mean courses. Sure, you can do that too, but what I mean is, buy that lovely journal that inspires you, get that laptop that's only for writing, decorate your surroundings with things that make you want to create. Creativity feeds creativity. Nothing is a waste.

3. Just write

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Every class and book on writing says write every day. A list, a line, a poem, a journal entry, a caption on an Instagram post. Write when you can, where you can. You'll often see writers scribbling in little journals they carry around with them. For me, it was the Notes section on my iPhone. This is how many of my short stories and poems first came to fruition. 

 

4. Be gentle with yourself

I cannot emphasize this enough. Don't be hard on yourself if you skip a day, a week, a month. You are a writer and you came to it for a reason. Life happens and no matter what, writing will come back to you. It always does.   

5. Don't write for anyone but yourself

This one's a vastly different opinion from some people I've met. I don't think you should cater your writing to a market. Sure, there are topics that are hot, genres that agents are looking for, but good writing is good writing, period. Just write. It's nice to see your name and story published but really, the most amazing writers I've met rarely write for fame. They write for the voices in their head - sometimes gently speaking and other times screaming - to get their story out into the world. Just write. Also, if people don't like it, are offended by it, think it's about them etc. do it anyway. Try not to hurt anyone's feelings I say, but if you do, apologize. And keep on writing.

6. You are not everyone's cup of tea

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If you want to publish and see your work out there, know you won't be everyone's cup of tea. But you know what? We live in a world with Fahrenheit 451, to Harry Potter, to Fifty Shades of Grey, to A Fine Balance. Someone out there will enjoy what you've got to write. People will criticize and berate but they will also uplift and endear you. Just do you. 

I have to remind myself this because for a long time I thought (and may still think to some degree): who am I to write? I was born in the Philippines and grew up in the suburbs just outside of Toronto. I'm just a mom and a teacher. I don't look or live like the literary types I look up to. Luckily, I have had wonderful teachers, writers and friends who've encouraged me to keep writing, that what I look like or where I come from doesn't matter. One mentor in particular constantly reminds me why I wrote my first novel. Simply, to leave it on a bus so someone could find it, hopefully enjoy it, and pass it on.

7. Don't take your writing self too seriously

Again, just write.

8. Pray

I really believe it's a spiritual practice - this business of writing. So I write the word pray but it doesn't necessarily mean in the traditional sense. Meditate, take photographs, take a walk in nature. Pray. It helps.

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9. Support people

They are not your competition. Really, they're not. Even if you wrote a novel about a 30-something Filipina woman who's just had her first child and is struggling with baby blues and issues of abuse from her past - we are not in competition. Our stories will have a different flavour & style, they'll be different no matter what.  We all have voices that need to be heard and there's room for everyone. Support local literary journals as well. Many are run by volunteers and are out there simply for the love of telling our stories. After all, isn't that why we do it?

10. Submit, submit, submit

Again, if you want to be published, submit, submit, submit. Along with: going to readings, reading at open mics, going to workshops where you can pitch agents - though I haven't done this yet, I've heard it's worked for many others. Most of all, submit.On a side note, the marketing part can feel uncomfortable (self-promotion, blog posts about yourself, web pages etc.) but it's a way to get your name out there and that isn't bad at all.