Friday, 21 October 2011

It all starts with stamina ...

The creative muscle is the same as any used in the body. Using your mind to create characters and worlds that people can believe, and writing that out into a cohesive story, takes a great deal of stamina.

When you go to the gym you don't expect to be able to lift heavy weights right away. You have to start off small and learn the limit of your strength. Afterwards the muscles ache. You feel tired. The exercise session was probably not as sustained as you would have liked it to be. It takes stamina to continue, working through the pain and exhaustion. After many months, and lots of practice that dedication pays off and you can lift more weights, exercise for longer and recover faster from the exertion. You feel fitter and your reflexes react quicker.

Using the creative muscle works in the same way. At first flexing that muscle is hard work and it hurts. You tire easily and you aren't as productive as you'd like to be. It takes stamina and dedication to write everyday - even if it is only a few hundred words. In a way you have to force yourself into a specific regime - just the same as you do when you begin a new exercising schedule.

If you want to be a writer you set aside an hour a day and make yourself write during that time no matter what. The only way to learn to write is to actually pick up the pen or switch on the computer and practice the art in the first place. This is hard to sustain as there are many distractions to take away that time and help you procrastinate.

It takes stamina, dedication and obsession to carry on.

Once you work the creative muscle, exercising it becomes as important as breathing. The pleasure of world building is hard but rewarding. I have friends who use exercise in exactly the same way. They feel energised by the work-out, even though at the beginning it was incredibly difficult to sustain. Writing a lot gives the same rush, but you can't get to that point without the first level of stamina.

As writing gets easier you set yourself longer and harder challenges. Write a novella instead of a story, or a novel instead of a novella. Each new challenge requires more stamina. Ultimately the enjoyment you gain from it makes the process easier.

When you get to the stage where you have a project you're proud of, the letter writing begins. The new challenge is summarising your novel in a two page synopsis, writing a letter that will interest an agent or publisher and coming up with a pitch that will blow-them all away. No mean feat.

You get rejection letters - it requires stamina, dedication, obsession and confidence to pick up that pen once more and write something else - only this time you want to make it even better.

This process can go on for years.

Keep your rejection letters - it takes real stamina to take on board the criticisms and use it to improve the next thing you send out.

Then at the end of all of that, you finally get something in print. You're proud of your achievements. People are willing to pay money to buy it. You get praised for it. Then someone says your work is  'rubbish' when they haven't even read it.

It takes stamina, dedication, obsession, confidence and common sense to walk away and not respond. It takes all of those things and a huge dose of passion to pick up your pen again and carry on.

It all starts with stamina ...

Do you have what it takes?

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