I’ve been writing professionally for 35 years. Yikes! How did the time pass so quickly?
People often say you don’t really learn something until you teach it (the standard advice for medical students is “see one, do one, teach one”), and that bit of practical wisdom applies to writing, as well.
Here are the five most useful lessons I’ve learned over the last 35 years. If you write, these lessons will apply to you, too:
1. Write every day.
Writing is like exercise—it depends on repetition. Just as you don’t get to be an athlete by lying on your couch and eating Krispy Kremes, you don’t get to be a writer by talking about it. You actually have to do it.
That said, I’m not going to instruct you to write for hours every day. I know you don’t have the time. In fact, I’m convinced setting aside huge chunks of time for writing is the vampire’s kiss of death.
Writing works best when you let the words gradually accumulate, the way snow collects on the ground. I used to try to write stories all in one go. Now I do a little bit every day, writing or editing for a few minutes here or there, often between phone calls. The rhythm feels much more natural. It’s easier and more fun, too.