To Build Your Writing Career, Start Small.
Art For Art's Sake: Part 3
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
- Arthur Ashe
One of the biggest mistakes I made as a novice writer was writing my novel.
It wasn't until I heard Ray Bradbury's advice to writers that I grew into some sense.
This is why, instead of working on a novel, I am working on weekly short stories.
Earlier I thought of novel-writing as a tedious, long term project that I would have to slog through.
I had no idea what I was doing. I had no confidence in myself or my words. And since I saw no immediate results, I didn't understand if I was doing it right.
That resulted in beating myself up and lowering my confidence and self-belief even further.
Now I have a completely different attitude towards writing.
I am confident in my work. I know where I can grow. I have a consistent writing habit. And the feedback so far has been very satisfying and encouraging.
So what difference did writing short stories make, which my novel wasn't able to?
It's made me believe that I can do this. I have what it takes to be a writer. I CAN build a writing career.
Here's Why Starting Small Works
It builds your writing habit.
Let's say you want to start a new fitness routine. And you have never worked out before.
If you think you can pull off an hour of rigorous exercise, then you're wrong.
You can maybe do it at that moment, but you won't realise how much you're hurting your body and mind with this sudden exertion.
This is why many of us fall off the track within a month. It's not sustainable.
What you want to do is grow into the habit.
Same way, as a new writer (or a writer who's coming back to writing after a long time), you have to get comfortable sitting at a desk and let your fingers do all the talking.
Start with a small, attainable goal - mine was 250-500 words a day - to get the ball rolling. Over time, writing will become second nature.
It builds your writing muscles.
Let's go back to the gym. It's your first day.
You don't want to pick up 50 kgs dumbbells and hurt yourself.
You'd pick up 5 kgs. And if that's still heavy and uncomfortable, you'd go for 3 or 2.5 kgs. Your goal should be to increase your weight gradually.
That way, your muscles get used to the weights and learn how to manage them.
As a new/returning writer, you have to let your mind get used to churning out words. You have to get comfortable sitting at a desk and let your fingers do all the talking.
Find out what your comfortable range is - it can be in terms of word count or time spent. For me, it was 250-500 words a day. Again, over time, you'd get used to this range. Once that happens, you can increase it.
Now I can write about 1500 words a day.
It makes you practice and fine-tune your craft.
You have been at the gym for over a month now.
Slowly you're learning the craft and understanding how you'd like to go about it.
There'll be specific exercises you'll prefer more than others. There's a certain way off how you use the weights. Nothing drastically different from what others are doing, but just your take on it.
By writing short stories, I am learning how to sound my stories quicker than if I had worked on a novel.
My short stories give me the space to experiment and grow without having too much at stake.
You get immediate feedback on what's working and what's not.
Those little aches and pain you have exercising are signs that you are doing a good job.
That sharp pain that makes you stop is a sign that you did something wrong.
Since I am experimenting with my short stories, I get immediate feedback if readers enjoy my work. Not on the day of publishing, but over the week/month.
The feedback is quick because my current work is quick to read.
Even if readers don't give feedback, I know where I could improve the moment I publish my work. For you see, before you became a writer, you were a reader. Therefore, subconsciously, you know what works and what doesn't.
So when I write the next story, I can adjust my writing according.
You start believing in yourself when you say you're a writer.
In his book, The Atomic Habits, author James Clear says, "Every action is a vote for the type of person you wish to become."
After what I have been experiencing in my writing career so far, I will say that is true.
Every time I finish a writing session, an article, a short story, I feel accomplished. I feel proud of myself. Because I am doing what I said, I am - a writer.
It makes me trust in my belief that, slowly and steadily, I'll make it as a successful author.
Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.
- Francis of Assisi
More in the Art For Art’s Sake Series -
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