It is said that in order to write well, you should write what you know. Well, after spending a large part of the last decade creating stories with some regularity, this is what I know (The Truth in Fiction, if you will):
- Writing is hard. When I first started out, I didn’t realize that throwing words down would require more than a computer (or pen and paper) and a general knowledge of language and grammar. I didn’t know that it takes grit to continually stare down a blinking cursor on a blank page. It takes stamina to keep going on days when good words are scarce and more on days when even not-so-good words are hard to come by. It takes courage to face the personal demons and hang-ups and unhealthy patterns that emerge from so much time spent in your own head. It takes self-discipline to get your butt in the chair and continue pursuing a passion for which you are often solely responsible for your own accountability.
- Consistency is important. For years, I struggled with developing and sticking to a writing schedule. I struggled with procrastination, with the temptation to put other, easier-to-complete tasks ahead of writing. In those days, my irregularity—writing a little on some days, not at all on others—made progress difficult. I became so disconnected from the flow of the story that even on days I spent eight hours at my desk, I might only force out a single stilted paragraph. Now that I have a set routine and regular working hours, I find that, though the words aren’t always exceptional, they do tend to spill out of me with ease. I’ve learned that when you consistently show up for your creativity, it consistently shows up for you.
- Resistance is real. And it comes in many forms. From the entirely self-induced internal variety (e.g., fear, doubt, anxiety, worry) to actual physical distractions like texts/emails, to-do lists, that little notification symbol on your social media apps, and even other people. Regardless of its shape, resistance can completely derail your progress if you aren’t diligent in combating it.
- Faith is essential. Control is an illusion. And although I know this to be true, I still have a tendency to hold many elements of my life in a death grip for fear that letting go even a little will result in complete disaster. When I approach my work in this manner, writing from a place of grasping and striving, the words are strained and flat. But when I surrender and acknowledge that there is a power much greater than me at work, writing becomes as natural as breathing.
- Connections are a necessity. Most of the work of novel writing must be done alone, and therefore, can be a very lonely endeavor. Connecting with other people—specifically those who relate to, support, encourage, or inspire you—is a good way to keep your spirits lifted on tough days and also offer accountability in reaching your goals. The internet and social media platforms are brimming with writing communities and opportunities to connect, however, I have found authentic, in-person relationships to be more valuable. I’ve noticed that too much time behind a screen can make even an imagined world seem distant and unemotional, because when you’re not present in real life it’s difficult to present real life in fiction.
The interesting thing about these five points of truth is that although I considered them from a writer’s perspective, they are all valid for just about any job, goal, passion, or even life itself. Think about it: Life is hard. Life is often full of resistance. Life is almost always made better/easier/more livable with consistency to balance us out, a few good people to help us along, and a little faith to lift us up.