Writing isn’t easy! Sometimes when I have a bad day and feel defeated, I read about well-known authors to learn from and be inspired by their experiences.
Here are some of my favorite lessons about writing and the writing life:
Be disciplined. Write because you love writing.Cozy mystery author Charlotte MacLeod who sold over 1 million copies of her books, was disciplined about writing. She wrote each morning beginning at 6 a.m. then revised her work in the afternoon. MacLeod began writing new books on Sundays. She wore her bathrobe to avoid the temptation of leaving the house to run errands.
MacLeod often stated that she so enjoyed writing books she would continue even if nobody ever read them.
You can write anywhere.Author J.D. Salinger carried chapters of The Catcher in the Rye when he landed on Utah Beach on June 6, 1944 during the invasion of Normandy (D-Day). He fought, but he also wrote constantly from the beginning of the war until the end. One soldier remembered a time when their unit came under heavy fire. Everyone ducked for cover. He looked around and saw Salinger typing under a table. Salinger’s novel, which became a classic, was published seven years later.
Make the most of your time.When J.K. Rowlingwas twenty-five years old, she was delayed while traveling by train from Manchester to London. During the four hour delay she said that the idea for Harry Potter simply “strolled into her head fully formed.” But her pen didn’t work and she was too shy to borrow one from a stranger. So, she sat and just thought. Rowling later said that if she had possessed a working pen and slowed down her thoughts to write, she might have stifled her ideas. However, she sometimes wonders how much of the story she forgot.
Capture the moment.Attorney Francis Scott Key was aboard a British troopship to negotiate the release of an American civilian when the British began bombing Fort McHenry. He was detained on the ship which was anchored four miles from shore. After twenty-five hours of continuous bombing, it became quiet. On September 14, 1814 when Key saw the American flag flying over the fort in the early morning light, he took out a piece of paper and immediately wrote down what he was feeling. His untitled lyrics eventually became known as “The Star-Spangled Banner”
Give Back.There are SO many writers who give their time, talent, and money to help others that this section could be turned into a book. I chose one well-known author who I didn’t realize was so generous with her money until I wrote this blog.
Nora Roberts has a reputation for being an author who gives the most money to charity and as one of the top donors among all celebrities. She heads the Nora Roberts Foundation which supports literacy, children's programs, humanitarian efforts, and arts organizations. The Nora Roberts Center for American Romance at McDaniel College is funded by a gift from her foundation. She has even auctioned some of her jewelry to support charitable causes.
Never. Give. Up.
Author Kathryn Stockett received 60 rejections for her book, The Help, which became a best seller and was made into a movie. She enthusiastically edited and worked on her story until the 40th rejection letter when she read the words, “There is no market for this kind of tiring writing.” She said that particular rejection letter made her cry and she subsequently spent a weekend in her pajamas. However, she was tenacious and continued to rewrite and submit.
After five years of writing and three and a half years of rejection, agent Susan Ramer accepted Stockett and sold her story three weeks later. Stockett wrote that she can’t tell people how to succeed, but she knows the way not to—give into the shame of being rejected. Instead, you might do as Stockett did and “Give into your obsession instead.”
What have you learned from other writers?