What is it like to be a writer? How do we keep coming up with ideas? How do we maintain our passion, our drive, our will to sit in front of a computer screen and type until our fingers become sore? How do we prevent ourselves going mad? (Actually, a few people would question whether some degree of madness is a pre-requisite).
There is no easy answer to these questions, because being a writer isn’t easy – whether you are successful and published, or whether you are aspiring to be. It doesn’t matter what kind of writing you do – you will come up against the same problems – the Dark Arts.
I write because I have to. Something inside of me makes me write. When that something in me woke up there was no going back. It is that I have to remember every time the Dark Arts start to take hold of me. I need to keep direction in my writing journey – I must not give up, and I must keep hold of my desire.
I am not alone. I am lucky to be a member of a great writing group, where fellow writers support each other. It was this writing group which ran a seminar which they named “Defence Against the Dark Arts” in homage to the success of Harry Potter, and I recognised all the issues which arose that night. Every single affliction which can gnaw at a writer – yes, I knew them all. I give particular credit to Nick David who ran our Defence Against the Dark Arts Class. I have drawn on some of his ideas in writing this article, although my own experience is self evident.
So how do I deal with the Dark Arts? These aren’t the kind of Dark Arts you will find at J. K. Rowling’s Hogwarts, but they can be equally as destructive to a writer.
If I am ever going to succumb to one of the Dark Arts it is this one.
Recently I was going through a particularly bad stage of self doubt. I mentioned my worries over whether my work was good enough to a published author whom I admire. I’ll paraphrase her answer - “Your work is good enough, but you are not alone. Whenever the phone rings I think it is my publisher ringing to tell me my contract is over.” So, successful published authors suffer from self doubt too.
I soon realised that if friends and family liked my work, it didn’t mean I was any good – I had to show my work to those who would be more critical – but constructively critical. I took writing courses, was professionally critiqued, I mixed with my peers, and am now an active member of a writing group. Believe me; a writing group erupting in spontaneous loud applause after you have read a piece of your work does a lot to persuade yourself you have at least some talent. It may interest you to know with that particular piece I read out, I had no idea if it was any good or how it would be received. I trusted, and let my audience be the judge. You must do the same.
Lastly when your self-criticism starts to take over think about this – would you be this cruel to someone else? Take yourself out of your body – what would you say to you? Self abuse really is a journey to the dark side – don’t stay there. You don’t have to be the best to succeed – many people are successful without being the best writers, or even singers. You know who they are. The question is – do you have that spark? Chances are; if you have taken the trouble to read this, your spark has ignited.
I’ll explore a writer’s defences against more “Dark Arts” in Part 2 of this article at a later date. We’ve only just scratched the surface. Keep an eye on this blog, or you’ll miss it!
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