This is the final On Track module, so we’ll be concentrating on setting you up for writing success in the future – both immediate (the project you’re currently working on) and long-term. We’re going to focus on the resources which you need – internal and external.
Internal resources are the ones which come from within you. They’re qualities like your knowledge and skills.
External resources are all the people and things which can help you on your journey. Books, blogs, writing courses, companions and allies.
Both are important – crucial. And, even if you feel like you don’t have many resources right now, I’m willing to bet that you already have more than you think … and you can easily build others.
Internal Resources: Your Personal Strengths
Image from Flickr by Bhope34
It’s often easy to see other people’s strengths and miss our own. I’m in awe of people who can paint, for instance – but I tend to take my writing ability for granted. It often takes someone else reminding me that I’m a good writer for me to really see it.
I’m guessing you do the same. You’ve got plenty of strengths already – you just might not be able to see them.
Perhaps you have expertise in a particular area. That might be from a course you’ve studied, a job you’ve had, from a volunteering position, or simply from life – practical skills like cooking, parenting or handiwork.
Don’t take this expertise for granted. It’s a great pool to dip into for your writing, whether you’re working on fiction or non-fiction. Something which seems mundane or simple to you might be absolutely fascinating to your readers.
As well as your subject-specific expertise, you’ve got other attributes. They’re often called “soft skills” or “transferable skills” – ones which you can use in multiple areas of your life. They’re things like being meticulous and hard-working, or being great at inspiring and leading a team.
When it comes to these qualities, it’s tempting to think they’re just a matter of personality. Some people are just born hard-working and focused. Some people are naturally great at writing. Right?
Nope. Wrong. You don’t get an easy get-out like that. You can develop your ability to work hard, focus, and write well. I’ve seen this in my own writing life: I’ve worked at my writing for years, and I find it much easier to focus now. I’m also a more fluent writer.
So, what internal resources – skills and qualities – should you cultivate? And how?
This is the ability to persevere, to stick with something even when it gets hard. You know as well as I do that writing isn’t always easy. There are times when you just can’t seem to get a piece right, and times when you feel like giving up.
To develop this, make writing commitments and stick to them. What will you do this week? Write it down.
It’s awfully easy to find excuses not to start writing, or excuses to break off mid-way. Learning to focus means dismissing that internal voice which says “How about another coffee?” or “Why don’t you just check your email?”
Don’t try to focus by will-power alone. Instead, find tools that help. Set a timer and write for half an hour, without getting distracted. Switch off your internet connection. Find a quiet cafe where you can write. You’ll find that you can already focus pretty well, given the right conditions.
You can be a technically good writer – knowing all the rules of grammar, for instance – without making much of a connection with your audience. Voice is importance because it’s what makes your writing unique.
To develop your writing voice, start writing from the heart. (The final chapter of Seven Pillars of Great Writing will help with this.) Write about topics which you care about. Create characters who are uncomfortable close to who you want to be – or who you fear becoming. No, it’s not easy. That’s why you need…
Writing isn’t physically hazardous – but it can be incredibly scary. You need courage to write what’s really on your mind. You need courage to tell the people in your life that your writing is important to you. And above all, you need courage to show your work to other people – in an online forum, in a live workshop, or by publishing it.
I’m not very brave. The first time I read my writing out in front of a workshop group, I was shaking. But I’ve found that courage builds up gradually. Ask yourself “what’s the worst that can realistically happen?” Chances are, it’s not really that bad. So take the plunge – next time, it’ll be easier.
All of this might sound tough – and I’m not going to lie and say that building up your writing strength is easy. But it’s an awful lot easier if you don’t try to do it alone…
>> Click here to go to the second part, where we’ll take a look at external resources