Tuesday, April 14, 2015

5 Essential Tips for Burgeoning Writers

The Basic Question:

What do writers need in order to be successful in their creative work?


1. Finding your place to write is of utmost importance.  In  “A Room of One’s Own,” Virginia Woolf stresses this requirement when she writes: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

Of course, not all writers have the luxury of having money provided so that they can develop as writers. Many have to spend some of their time in gainful employment. She stresses that women must make a special effort to write because during her time (1882-1941), it was more common for men to develop into great writers. She successfully broke out from her historical confines and became known as one of the first modernist writers. During her lifetime it was the "man of the house" to have a private study. Her life struggle to become a writer of merit led her to understand that having a place to write means that you are giving priority to your work. Nevertheless, the logistics of being in one location and/or finding a room in a busy house can be frustrating. The author of Writing as a Way of Healing,  Louise Desalvo, explains that you can be more flexible and place a desk in a hall or in any room to provide yourself with a place that is your own. A writing location allows you to form a routine. It is the writing habit that provides you with the platform to grow. For many writers, it may be a local coffee house that creates a sense of place. Students often write at desks in their bedroom or on cushioned boards (or laptops) while still in bed. Some writers such as Jamaica Kincaid, author of the short story "Girl," the novel Annie John, and the essays, A Small Place (among others), continues with this technique.  She has comments on staying in bed and in her pajamas all day so that she can write - a routine that allows her to concentrate. Maya Angelou discovered her time management strategy through necessity since she had to travel so much to speaking engagements. She decided to make her hotel room her writing room. Her solution worked so well that she continued renting a hotel room for this very purpose. She said in an interview, "I do still keep a hotel room in my hometown, and pay for it by the month. I go around 6:30 in the morning. I have a bedroom, with a bed, a table, and a bath. I have Roget’s Thesaurus, a dictionary, and the Bible."(Link to the full interview, The Daily Beast, "How I Write," Maya Angelou)  In this same interview, she explains that the room must have completely bare walls so as not to cause her any distraction, which demonstrates a significant degree of self knowledge. My writing room goes by the name of "the writing closet" because I store my clothes and write my secrets there. I visit the "closet" every morning. 

2. Self knowledge

A writer should have some understanding of her personalized and unique path to writing or finding the muse. The discovery of your insight can be obtained by self-observation as you write. Through noticing your own process, when and in what circumstances trigger writing, allows you to develop as a writer.

3. Inspiration and Creativity 

Naranjito, Puerto Rico

Another strategy is to seek out writers you admire and read their works. Even though these writers may be personally inaccessible, it helps to have an image of a writer for inspiration. Through an internet search, looking for comments, blogs and writing workshops, a connection could be made with this author or other writers interested in moving forward with their own projects. 

Be ready to write. I am not alone in recommending that you keep a notebook handy (journal). Recently, in the two day "Student Research and Writing Conference" at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras campus, keynote speaker and author Luis Negrón (Mundo Cruel) emphasized that carrying a notebook to jot down writing ideas is important, "Relying on memory is a mistake because you think you will remember but you will forget!"

4. Feedback


One of the most difficult aspects of writing is locating a trusted reader and receiving feedback. Often, we block feedback from others because we feel our creativity is at stake -  not an unreasonable fear. In fact, the wrong kind of criticism can shut down inspiration. The trick is to find someone you can trust and ask for the kind of feedback that might be useful. Reactions about specific writing areas are helpful. Readers questions and asking for clarity on certain meanings might be useful. Seek out readers who understand that you are developing a work, i.e., your writing is evolving. If your reader senses resistance and/or hostility, she may not be willing to read anymore of your work. That fact established, you do not have to make changes or do anything about the comments offered by readers. I rely on my own (flawed at times) judgment when it comes to sensitive revision and editing, but would love to find a reader (who also writes) to share in my process. Author Zadie Smith (White Teeth) recommends that you ".... try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would." Brave indeed!

5. Routine


Writers who consider writing a priority in their lives make time for it by establishing a routine. But that routine is highly specific to your kind of writer. Virginia Woolf scheduled a three hour morning routine while Maya Angelou stretched herself across the bed and maintained all day writing sessions. Louise Desalvo warns that you may not be able to find blocks of time in which to write. She suggests grabbing snippets of time (equaling three hours) throughout the day in her article, "Why Having Kids is No Excuse."

What matters to a writer is that you write. You continue to write throughout your days, perhaps feeling dissatisfied with your work but you continue. As Virginia Woolf said, 
“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery...” Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

 Give your writing a place in your life. If necessary follow Desalvo's advice, "Call it work, not writing. No one I knows cares if you’re writing.  That’s why you have to call it work.  Because that’s what it is.  Your work.  Your life’s work." 


  1. I read segments of this work and quickly took to writing all the thoughts I could conjure about myself and my writing. It really stuck to me the mentioning of location; I immediately associated with with my favorite writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I remembered reading that he spent close to a year inside his office to write and finish his Nobel Prize winning book A Hundred Years of Solitude. He would spent most of his time writing, and his wife would bring food up to his room from time to time. Then a few hours later she would find the plate empty outside the door.
    I understand that I work in a similar way. I need a place of my own, as Virginia Wold mentions. This place needs to be calm, it needs to have a spontaneous breeze flow that is not rough, but gentle. It basically needs to be empty, but having a few things that make it warm, pertaining to closure. I need to feel welcomed so that I can be open to writing and expressing my thoughts in a calm and cool manner.

  2. I don't consider myself a writer, but I certainly have a space in where I study in my room. I don't use a desk to study, I study at my couch, the place in which I feel most confortable. I hope to find inspiration and write down my thoughts.

  3. I agree that many people, including myself, often fear receiving feedback about our writing or about any personal creation we've made for that matter. I normally don't like for other people to proofread or check my works because I tend to feel a bit embarrassed, I don't know why! Also, I believe that my place to write would also be the place where I go to in order to be able to concentrate and study or read; somewhere in my house where I know I won't be bothered and I can feel free and relaxed.
    I don't tend to write creatively but I'm starting to see how positive and self-rewarding it can turn out to be!

  4. Location is so important! I remember that the few times that I wrote in my journal at the beach the words were flowing so easily. On the contrary, when I had to write at the library, I would find it very hard to concentrate. Sometimes friends would come up to me and try to talk and I would have to tell them to go away for a few minutes until I finished. I think it is important to write wherever you feel comfortable, and at a place that has minimal distractions.

  5. For me it is so easy to give my mom my works so she can evaluate them (I know it sounds a little cheesy, but, it works!). Normally I'd write something and if I know that it's something that someone else will read, my mom is always the first, because I know that any feedback I get from her is so I can improve my work. Though, I never actually have one specific location for me to write. I've written in my bed, at my desk, in the library, in the kitchen while I'm cooking, I've even written essays in my dance rehearsals when I have a little break. I just find that if I have the inspiration to write, it doesn't really matter the place, but I guess it's different for everyone! I guess I could say I'm sort of like a nomad writer haha!

  6. Nicolas, Val, Ana, Mariana, Adriana: I love hearing about your writing process!

  7. While reading this blog post, I automatically agreed on a few key points; the location where you write is very important, getting inspiration from a couple of your favorite writers can be very helpful in our own process and that a good writing routine is completely personalized to the writer itself.
    Speaking from personal experience, I could really only write in two separate locations that not only inspired me to write but also helped me connect with some of my favorite authors. Having said that, a good routine has made the difference in my writing process, whether its writing just as I've woken up and have fresh new ideas or at night when the day has passed and it makes for a different type of witting experience...
    ~Paula Delgado

  8. "Call it work, not writing." Good idea! I don't write a lot, but every time I say I'm going to write people look at me with a complex expression on their face and unconsciously interrupt the process of writing. I had never thought of it that way, "Call it work, not writing." Definitely going to try it!

  9. It is very interesting blog entry because these tips are very important at the moment we want to realize we want to write something. Where a lot of these factors influence the way we write and even the message that we will send to the reader. Although we might be hold up by the feedback fact, where I personally tend to think as the reader criticizing my work and sometimes frustrating myself with no reason, this may happen because I'm not used to write for the public eye and may turn ashamed of what I wrote. Nonetheless I rather say that location sometimes tends to be more mentally than physically because by imagining us a certain place we might get inspired to write about the ideas that come to mind to the place or thing we may picture. Not only by ourselves also influenced by music which in someway could also influence in a whole part are writing. I considered these five tips very interesting, but I rather say writing its a feeling turning it self concrete influenced by certain factors and no matter the space you find yourself in writing can serve as a relieving strategy for those days we may just want to empty a thought bothering us inside.


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