[Tipster] Three Essentials of the Writing Life

Oct 31, 2022

A good friend had a so-called midlife crisis at around 45.

He was a pediatric ophthalmologist, a high paying, meaningful profession: He performed eye surgery on children.

But he was restless.

He wanted more meaning in life. So he decided that he would become ... a writer!

He quit his day job as an eye surgeon and, instead of writing every day, went back to school.

He decided that he needed a degree in literature from the local university before he could get really serious about writing his great American novel.

Essential #1: You must write consistently

You really don't need to go back to college. Or land a spot in an elite MFA (master in fine arts) program.

You mostly need to write. So write.

Writing is like learning how to shoe horses. Or garden.

You have to do it to become a craftsman or craftswoman at the skill.

Essential #2 - You must become a continual self-learner

The impulse to go back for a degree is mostly a good one, if somewhat misguided.

The emotion of feeling like you need to learn more is absolutely real.

You do need to learn more. A lot more.

And much of this you can do on your own. Or at least start to learn on your own.

It all starts with the basics:

After decades of writing, I still read "The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White about once a year. And I always have my nose in a writing book.

I must go back to the basics of writing. Again and again and again.

And go back to the fundamentals:

* Make sure I have strong verbs and nouns;

* Eliminate the passive voice unless it is strategic;

* Ensure that the opening of every section has a hook or begins with a story;

* Evaluate my sentences for cadence;

* Stitch in more dialogue if needed; and, among others,

* Evaluate and re-evaluate how to structure my piece or book.

We not only learn by writing, we learn by reading experts on how to improve our craft.

The learning curve is endless.

Maybe you need to take a writing class. Either online or at the local college.

The point is that once you decide to join the writing life, you must also develop a learning mindset.

Essential #3 - You need a small village

As we state on the home page of our website, "Writing is a solo act, but it is not a solo journey."

Few of us can live like hermits and still produce scintillating prose.

We all need a little help along the way:

1. Feedback from experts;

2. Feedback from readers;

3. Kudos from our mum. (Okay, maybe not);

4. Support from fellow writers who know our pain; and

5. Connection to people in the publishing or self-publishing industry to help us complete our projects.

Writing may be the most community-intensive journey that there is!

The Rest of the Story

My friend never completed his novel.

His wife stayed in her job as an elementary school teacher as he fought the good fight and tried to produce a novel.

Eventually, however, he returned to eye surgery. He had to go back and retake some of his boards, because he had let them lapse.

He is now retired, and his wife just published her first children's book. Go figure: his wife who stayed at her day job published a book.

I think the only lesson here is to ... buckle up and write.