MY WRITING JOURNEY
Please help me welcome Iris Marsh as the Guest Author on the Writer's Journey Blog this week.
My writing journey is not a long one yet, as I'm still at the beginning. Still, there are some twists and turns that steered me in different directions before I ended up back where I started: wanting to become a professional writer.
I discovered my love for reading and writing at a young age. I would often read before going to sleep, listening when my parents would come to bed. When I heard them coming, I'd turn off the nightlight above my bed and wait. When I was sure they were asleep, I'd turn it back on and continue my reading.
By the end of elementary school, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I would write stories on my computer or notepad and read books about writing. As I got older, I became more interested in music, and becoming a singer-songwriter became my new dream. This dream became closer to reality when I got accepted to go to the conservatory, writing, and performing my own songs. Unfortunately, it wasn't the kind of environment I'd hoped it would be, and I felt out of place. I quit after two years.
Left with a heavier heart, I threw myself in the complete opposite direction: I got my Bachelor's in Pedagogical Sciences and then on to do a Master's in Behavioral Science. At the moment, I'm in the middle of pursuing my PhD in Health Psychology. I found that while I enjoy research, something is missing. The urge to create just proved too strong, and I went back to my original passion: writing fiction.
And so, I write in the few spare hours I have in the evenings and weekends. Pursuing a writing career while working a full-time job is challenging, and sometimes I come home from work too drained to write. Still, I make steady progress in the novel I'm writing, and I have written several short stories, two of which I published on my website, called The Election and Teenage Screams. Next to that, I try and learn as much as I can, by joining communities with other writers and follow online courses. It's safe to say that even in this short writing journey so far, I've learned a couple of things that I'd like to share with you.
Pick a designated writing time. What really helped me to create a solid writing habit, even when I didn't feel like it, was choosing a specific time or moment in the day when I would write. For me, this is in the evening, after dinner. I then dedicate at least 2 hours of my time for writing. I tried other times as well to see which worked best. Other times might work better for you, such as the moment when you get home from work, or perhaps in the morning when right after you wake up. It doesn't matter when, as long as you stick to it. You can also pick a time-frame that works best for you and is feasible. Even if it's just 30 or 15 minutes a day, the important thing is that you're writing.
Be kind to yourself. If you write next to having a full-time or part-time job, it can be hard to write. There will be days you feel drained, especially if your job is very demanding. If you genuinely feel you can't write, it is okay to skip a day. Take some time for yourself, do something relaxing to take away the stress. Just don't make a habit out of skipping. When you start skipping multiple days, it can be difficult to start again. If you skipped a day, took care of yourself, and the next day you still don't feel like it, try and write for just 5 minutes. This will keep the habit of writing going.
Find a supportive community. I was struck with how kind and helpful other writers are. Finding a community (online or in real life) can make all the difference. It is nice to have other writers that are more experienced in some areas to answer any question you might have and who will encourage you to keep going when you've hit a slump in your writing. I love the community at thewritepractice.com, but there are others, and it's essential to find one that has the right fit for you.
Get feedback. If you want to improve your writing, getting feedback is important. This can be feedback from other writers in the online community you joined (at thewritepractice.com you can post short stories or story chapters to get feedback from other writers), or it can be a critique group you formed in real life. Another great way to get professional feedback is by getting a developmental editor (for instance, at thestorygrid.com). These editors can coach you through the process of writing a book, give you exercises and feedback, suggestions on what books to read, and more. On the downside, they also tend to cost quite a bit of money, so it might not be feasible for you. However, many are open to negotiating options that will be feasible, so don't let the costs scare you too much (and consultation calls are free).
Learn and practice your craft. To get better at writing, it seems logical that you need to keep practicing. Unfortunately, unlike learning a musical instrument, with writing, it can be a little fuzzy on what you need to practice. A start is to simply pick a part you want to improve (e.g., dialogue, a certain POV, describing a setting), and write a short story or a short paragraph focusing on that one thing. Here again is the importance of feedback because you can't improve if there isn't someone who can give you feedback on how to improve. Other options to learn more about writing are reading any of the many books there are about writing (I'd recommend the Story Grid by Shawn Coyne, or The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler), or follow any of the number available courses online (e.g. at thewritepractice.com, at storygrid.com or at masterclasses.com).
Thank you for reading my story, and I hope you find the tips provided helpful.
Iris Marsh is an aspiring fantasy author, living in the Netherlands together with her partner and cat. She's written two short stories that can be read for free on her website, called The Election and Teenage Screams. She's currently working on her debut novel The Half-bloods (working title), which hopefully will be published in 2021.
Next to writing, Iris is working to obtain her PhD in Health Psychology. She loves traveling, taking pictures of books for instagram, reading and reviewing other books, collecting book-items, making music, playing video games, and binging shows on Netflix or watching Disney movies.
More information can be found at irismarsh.com.
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