Last week I tripped in the street and bashed my face on the pavement. I also landed on my stroke-affected arm, spraining my wrist and badly bruising my hand. Consequently I have had more time to think than usual. Here are some lessons for writing I found through the experience:
1. Pay attention!
This world is full of distractions and it’s easy to think of what’s coming next rather than what you’re actually doing now. I was distracted by my bus going past and didn’t pay attention to my stroke-affected leg, which is why I tripped. As a writer I know my best work is done when I’m concentrating totally, not when I’m writing in front of the TV. You need to find a place where you won’t be distracted.
2. Kind people will help you up.
People stopped in the street to help me, and people will help you as a writer if you look for them. I have found writers to be generous to one another, ready to offer advice and encouragement. They remember what it was like to be a beginner, they remember the struggle – or maybe they’re still in it. There are online communities you can join, but there’s nothing like meeting people face to face. Join a local writers circle or a writing class.
3. Know when to seek expert advice.
My husband got me home and started cleaning up my face and quickly realised it needed to be seen by a doctor. We spent four and a half hours at the hospital but the x-rays showed there was nothing broken and my face was cleaned up and stuck back together.
However hard you work on your story there will come a time when you need an expert to look at it. Always save up for an editor. They will look at everything from spelling to plot. They can tell you if it works and what you need to do to fix it.
4. It may look worse than it is.
One of my bruises continued to bleed internally for a few days, so I have a purple patch running from beside my mouth right down to my collar bone. It looks awful but doesn’t hurt at all.
When you come back to your first draft your initial thoughts may be despair and disgust. This wonderful story you thought you’d written is rubbish. The characters are flat, the plot is full of holes, and/or it reads badly. Remind yourself that you captured all your ideas that you can now work on and polish. You’ll find it’s not as bad as it looks.
5. Be kind to yourself.
Since my fall, I’ve had to put aside lots of things I want to do, to allow time for what I had to do – mostly resting.
As a writer, it is easy to find scorn, disbelief and plenty of rejection. You need to believe in yourself, and give yourself every chance to succeed. To be a writer, if it’s something you have to do, you need to put aside some things you want to do. But don’t beat yourself up about it, just give yourself the time you need.