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How to Learn About Your Writing from Imitating It

You wake up one day and decide to write a novel. Nothing too original, but you want to give it a try. You start with a few scenes in the first person, presenting the reader with an opportunity to get into the head of the protagonist. You add more and more detail, shaping your novel into something that can be described as a page-turning read. You work hard at polishing your book, sending it to your agent and publishing house for consideration. But before you know it, a few months have gone by and you haven’t heard back from anyone. Frustrated, you begin to doubt yourself, wondering if your book is any good. How can you tell if your work is any good if no one has offered you a contract or asked for a new manuscript? What does that mean for your writing career? How can you learn to trust your creative instincts if you don’t know how good you are?

If this describes you, then you are not alone. Many writers—novelists, short story writers, and playwrights—have shared their doubts about the state of literature and the arts in our time, writing that it is ‘impossible’ to be an author in the current climate. If this sounds like you, then consider this a wake-up call. It’s time to celebrate your strengths and trust your instincts. Because there is no formula for being a good writer, you will never truly know if your work is any good until you try it. There are no rules in creative writing except for the ones you make for yourself. So take some time off, shut off your phones and computers, and immerse yourself in the world of your book. This is the best advice I can give you for now.

Put Your Book Through Its Paces

Your agent and publishers may have given you some feedback about your manuscript, but their opinion is just one data point, no matter how expert their opinion may be. There is no substitute for going through your book—the first draft, no less—with an audience, literally. As the writer of the above story, it might be easy for you to be open to constructive criticism, but until you’ve tried to put your creative work into practice, you’ll never know if it’s good or bad. Before you put your book out there for people to read, try out some of its scenes, perhaps as short stories, to see how they work and whether or not they will attract an audience. Remember: your story is a work in progress, and you never stop learning. Take your time, be patient, and enjoy the journey.

Keep Going

Sometimes it can be hard to know whether or not to keep going with a project you’ve started. Everyone has doubts about their work from time to time, even the most confident of us. Sometimes it’s easier to just give up, but keep going doesn’t mean you have to. If you still have faith in your ability to be a good writer, even if you doubt the current state of affairs in the literary world, then continue to write. Push yourself to write every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Some of the greatest stories, plays, and poems were written by people who constantly doubted themselves, but still found a way to produce quality work. If you want to be a good writer, you have to trust yourself, and if you don’t, no one else will. Most importantly, have fun with it.

If you’ve been working on your book for a while and feel like you’ve hit a bit of a wall, don’t worry. Take a break. Go for a walk, take a vacation, or just relax and refresh yourself. When you come back, you will find yourself energized and inspired to continue writing. Sometimes we just need a little push to get things going again.

So, what can you do to get into the writing mood? Visit a museum or an art gallery and feast your eyes on paintings and sculptures. Travel to a historical site and soak up the atmosphere of bygone eras. Watch a good movie or a play—anything that will get you into the mood of creating stories will serve you well. Follow a simple routine, get up early in the morning, and work on your book until lunchtime. If you need a little inspiration, pick up a notebook and write down all the ideas, situations, and characters that come to mind. You’re likely to find that your imagination is working overtime, and the ideas will come pouring in. But don’t worry, you don’t have to follow every one of them, only the ones that come to life in your writing.

Find Your Voice

If you’ve been working on your book for a while and feel like you’ve hit a bit of a wall, don’t worry. Take a break. Go for a walk, take a vacation, or just relax and refresh yourself. When you come back, you will find yourself energized and inspired to continue writing. Sometimes we just need a little push to get things going again. One way of doing this is by finding your writing voice. This is a style or a way of speaking that naturally comes to you, and it will make all the difference in your work. So, look for the styles and ways of speaking of the people you admire most, and begin to emulate those qualities in your own work. There’s no point trying to force yourself to use bad language or speak in a silly accent, but finding your authentic voice is important for your creative work. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking until you do, and once you’ve found it, don’t let go. Develop and hone your skills, and before you know it, you will be able to write in a style that is all your own.

Enjoy The Process

You’re never going to get anywhere in life if you don’t enjoy the process of getting there. And, quite frankly, neither are you. Life can sometimes feel like a struggle, filled with ups and downs, but that’s not how you want it to be. When you enjoy the process of getting from point A to point B, the road there feels more like an adventure, and less like a chore. Of course, the journey is filled with all sorts of unexpected twists and turns, which is what makes it exciting. But the point is that you are looking forward to getting there and being able to enjoy the experience. You’re investing your time and energy into something you believe in, and that is reflected in your work. So, as hard as it may be to believe, the fun isn’t over yet. Enjoy the journey and keep going.

Learn From The Best

Aspiring writers, whether we like it or not, study the work of others. It doesn’t matter if you write fiction or non-fiction, everyone needs to learn from the best, and if you want to be a good writer, you need to know how to study the craft. Reading is important, but it’s not the only way to learn. Watching how other writers work is essential. If possible, get a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a literary masterpiece, and see how the sausage is being made. By imitating—and in some cases, improving on—the works of others, you will be able to craft your own work into something special, something that will keep readers turning the pages, anticipating your next novel, or writing session.

So, what does the future hold for you? A steady stream of sales, or just one giant question mark? The only way to find out is by continuing to write. Keep honing your craft, sending out your work, and enjoying the journey. And when you’re ready, you’ll be able to stand among the greats, recognized for your incredible talent, and grateful for the opportunity to have contributed to the world of literature.