As a writer, I find myself connecting with characters who share my passion and frustrations. Nothing hits home more than watching a scene where a person deletes an entire section of their work or has a waste bin full of crumpled papers. Over time, a few things have stuck with me. From funny to heartwarming, here are five things I have learned from fictional writers.
1. It’s okay to be vulnerable.
“With writing comes exposure, and with exposure comes vulnerability.”
-Jane, Jane The Virgin
This goes for anything you write, whether fiction, articles, essays, etc. If you put it out there, you are putting yourself in a vulnerable position. There are people who won’t agree with you, people who just plain hate what you produced, and people who will troll because they’re bored. However, unless you accept that and let yourself be open to it, then you’ll never get the other side – the people who leave nice comments, who start following you, who recommend your works to their friends. Vulnerability is a hard thing and it can be scary, but once you embrace it, you’ll find a freedom in what you write.
2. Write what you want to read.
“It’s not just sex! It’s love! It’s two people connecting…with four other people…and aliens.”
-Suzanne, Orange Is The New Black
I totally connect with this line. It basically sounds like fanfiction. I have seen countless variations of characters in fics that range from totally canon to an entirely different, tentacled being. Sometimes I don’t get it, but the point is something that I have heard over and over as advice from seasoned writers to newbies -write what you want to read. If you want to write a smut-filled love story between six people and aliens, then write the hell out of that story. Don’t write what you think “people” want. Write what you want to read because I guarantee you when you do, you write it better. Don’t worry about it getting read by others. If you put it out there, you’ll find you’re not the only one who likes that story.
3. Writing is just hard…
“Writing is hard!”
Chuck had every writer nodding in agreement when he whined those words. It is hard. It’s not just putting words on paper, it’s more than that. Whether fact or fiction, there are hours spent researching, learning more about subjects than any average person should know. There’s time spent going over and over and over what you’ve written before deleting it and starting again. Then you edit, edit, edit until you believe you caught every typo and incorrect word. You bravely send it to the editor only to have it kicked back with notes on the mistakes. Your head hits the desk, but you get back to work. This is just scratching the surface. I won’t get into how writers put their whole heart and soul into their work at times. That is a truly exhausting thing to do, but the final product is so worth it.
4. …and terrifying.
“As a writer, I can think of no greater terror than confronting a blank page, except perhaps the terror of being shot at.”
-Richard Castle, Castle
Preach, Castle! Writer’s block is a thing and it’s terrifying. Imagine going to your everyday job and just suddenly you don’t know how to do anything. A photographer can’t seem to figure out how to push the button. A cashier looks at a register blankly. A quarterback gets sacked because he has no idea what this “egg-ball” is or what he’s supposed to do with it.
It’s the same thing. Sitting down in front of a blank page and having nothing written is terrifying, especially if you define yourself as a writer. It creates a crisis of identity. “I was a writer and now I can’t write. What does that make me? What do I do? Should I keyboard smash until I have words? Should I give up and go work in the mine with dad?” Thankfully, there are ways to work through it, but in those first moments of staring at nothing, it’s daunting.
5. Ask a friend for help.
“Having someone believe in me? It’s a small, really, really big thing.”
-Iris West, The Flash
The first time I wrote something, I was terrified to show it to anyone. Finally, I mentioned to a few friends that I had maybe, kind-of written a little thing. They asked to read it, so I sent it off and covered my head in shame and embarrassment. When I got positive responses back, it was like walking on air. I know we all have that one person we want to believe in us, but anyone having that faith is such a big help. Thanks to my friends, I published that piece online, got reviews that left me giddy, and followed it up with sixty-nine more chapters. There’s one important key here though – you have to believe in yourself. Have faith that what you wrote is worth reading in order to be brave enough to share it. Believe in yourself enough to put yourself out there and watch how so many other people will believe in you, too.
6. Find a balance.
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
-Jack Torrance, The Shining
No discussion of fictional writers’ teachings is complete without this iconic line. While for most of us it has a scary connotation due to the movie, it’s actually a sound piece of advice. You need to play. You need to have moments of fun and levity. It brings balance to your life and to what you write. Besides, that’s where all the best ideas are – out there, happening every day. Without this break from the monotony of staring at pages of text, everything starts to look the same and it becomes a great way to get burnt out. Take a break. Visit a friend, go kayaking, have a squirt gun fight with a kid, have a squirt gun fight with your best friend! To be the best writer and person you can be, you have to take care of yourself and that includes having fun in whatever ways you can.
It’s nice to see fictional writers being portrayed in ways that we can, at the very least, understand. While a person may not want to write stories of smut or of people going insane and murdering their family, there are little bits that can be learned from the characters that do. The one over-arching lesson from all of these writers, even Jack before he went off the deep end, is to love what you do. Write because it makes you happy and you can’t imagine not doing it. It doesn’t matter if it’s your job or the thing you do for an hour after the kids are sleep, you are a writer. Own that title and love it.
This was such fun, but I know there are plenty of other fictional writers, including those in literature. Has a fictional writer ever done or said something that impacted you? Share in the comments. I would love to read about them!