I've been a writer a good chunk of my life. I've not published (yet), but there are things I've learned that I think every writer should have. Like everything else in life, though, these are things I've picked up the hard way. I thought I'd share these tonight, mostly for my own sake so I don't forget.
1) Every writer should own a printed copy of all their stories - finished or not.
If you live with a writer, you will know they are the eternal pack rat. I am a pack rat, because there are days, I find myself pouring over my laptop and papers to find a draft of a story I thought I had given up on. These are moments of bravery where I want to dust off that story and see if I can breathe life into it.
Often times, though, I find myself disappointed because the story isn't anywhere to be found. While I can't encourage organization, as it is not something I can promise myself, I encourage you to keep everything. Because one day you will look for that one story that once seemed impossible and you will want to know you have it.
2) Every writer should have a critique partner, who is also a writer of the same caliber.
There is something about how a writer will read a story from another writer. It is more honest and more specific than anyone else you may ask. Best of all, if you can find someone that you trust that can give you good feedback, without making you cry, you have found gold. I am lucky that I have found someone like that (thanks to blogging, actually). I am also a strong believer that both parties should have fairly equal success - otherwise it's more of a mentor - mentee relationship, which doesn't seem fair and equal to me.
3) Every writer should have a person who will always, without fail, tell them their story is good.
While not many people would agree with me, I think every writer needs that person who will coddle them. We need the person who will always tell us our story is good. It's wonderful for that fragile writer ego of ours. Some days it's not easy to put the pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, and we need to know that there is someone out there will help us rebuild our confidence, no matter what.
4) On the other hand, we need someone who will tell it like it is.
Coddling aside, we also need that person who will always tell the truth. This is different than the critique partner relationship. This person probably isn't asking for something in return. I also have this person in my life and I have learned (the hard way) that I should only show them work at its very best - and that isn't a bad thing.
5) Knowledge (and acceptance) of our best writing times.
You could give me all day Saturday by myself with a beach front office for me to write and I probably will not get much work done. Yet, plant me on the couch with a glass of wine beside me (and yes, even the television on) at around 7 o'clock pm on, and I will come to life and the writing will get done. I have fought this for a while - I've always admired writers who can get up early or spend the day writing and that is just not me. I work better at night and that's just how it is. Which means I may also be part vampire, come to think of it.
6) The ability to quit comparing ourselves to other people.
I struggle with this one a lot. If I see someone on the blogs I read have fantastic success, and I realize that they aren't that much older or more experienced than me, I think - see? I should have that success. Yes, I know this isn't very kind, nor is it very mature. Yet, we cannot compare ourselves to other people. We only set ourselves up for failure and disappointment if we constantly think we aren't good enough.
7) The ability to write past the distractions.
We all have reasons not to write. But whether it's just writing one page or writing ten, we must learn to write past them. I also struggle with this. Don't let the distractions get to you. It's tough, but even if you can get a page of random thoughts down, it's better to fight past this than to let it bring you down.
8) A realistic writing dream (as well as the "out of this world" dream).
When I was ten, I dreamed about popping a cork of champagne and toasting my latest published book with my editor, agent, and publisher (okay, maybe the champagne came later). I have also dreamed about being on the tonight show as well as accepting an academy award for my writing work on my book-turned-movie (oh yes, I went there). At the same time, more recently, I have also fascinated about self publishing my book and seeing sales go up on Amazon and good reviews across more than half of the blogs I approached. It's fun to have our idealistic dreams, but don't forget to bring yourself down to reality.
9) Your own special writing gift to give yourself.
Whenever I'm feeling down or inspired, I buy myself a new notebook. This is usually the colorfully designed ones you buy at the grocery store, but to me, it represents a new start. I love new notebooks and it's my favorite writing gift for myself. Have one for you.
10) Knowing when to just write.
We all know the importance of marketing, having a day job, having a platform, social networking, writing to pay the bills, writing to get your name out there...at the end of the day, make sure you don't forget to write what you were meant to write. Write for your creative outlet. Write for that unfinished novel you want to see published one day. Write for poetry. Write for short fiction. Write for flash fiction. Don't forget to just write.
What do you think every writer should have?