Non-Writers Can Be So Annoying
(When They Find Out You Write)

“It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.”

— Robert Benchley

Telling people you’re a writer can be a dangerous thing. Not physically dangerous, unless you somehow bump into a serial killer who has a particular grievance against authors (Annie Wilkes, perhaps?), but it can be mentally dangerous. People who aren’t writers have a skewed vision of what it’s like to be one. They think we’re a bunch of lazy wordsmiths who sit around all day punching letters into a laptop — which, in a sense, is what we do. But they don’t understand how difficult our task is; it seems so easy from their side. They’ve written essays before and emails and Facebook statuses, so how hard can it possibly be? And for that reason, they treat our job like it’s merely an overblown hobby.

Which disregards the thousands of hours we spend crafting our words. As if we’re no better than a man who sits at his XBOX for 10,000 days playing Call of Duty.


“There is nothing to writing.

All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Ernest Hemingway


If only non-writers could understand the torment of an author’s life. But even if I slotted them in my place for a week, it still wouldn’t seem that hard to an amateur. As Thomas Mann said: “A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

An amateur can tap away at the keyboard, worry free. They have no professionalism or pride in their work. A true writer, however, will agonise over every sentence, each paragraph, or the correct construction of a scene. Should he start it from the end and work backwards? Should he begin in the middle of the action, or would this particular scene go well with a brief build-up? Has he waffled on for too long? Not filled in enough background information? Is the motive too spare or unrefined? Endless questions rattle around a writer’s brain during every scene.

It’s hard work. But when writers say this, the amateur looks at him with suspicion. Hard work? You’re tapping away at a keyboard. I do that every day. It’s easy. They think only from a physical point of view. We don’t lift bricks for a living, yet most will feel just as tired as a man who does — not physically but mentally. Our bodies will be fine, but we’ll be drained. We’ll want to sleep even though our legs could still run a marathon. Our mind will be shut down; every centre used and abused and lightless.

That’s probably why so many writers end up as alcoholics and drug addicts. They need something to take the edge off, to bring them back to reality. Just a shot or two.

And then eventually that becomes their crutch; their oil to start the engine.


“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”

Jack Kerouac


Another annoyance is when the non-writer asks you to partake in writerly duties — free of charge — as if you’re some kind of writing Lemming who specialises in any and all forms of the written word and will follow them off the cliff of whatever project they’re starting.

If they need a business plan, you’re the guy to come to; not the guy with the degree in business, or the man who owns a business, but a writer. They think your expertise with words will somehow add gravitas to their proposal. Maybe they think you’re able to turn water into wine, or a bad business into an amazing one.

Or they’ll ask if you can write the words in the birthday card for their mum, or the love letter to their girlfriend, or a sorry note to their sister, or a Facebook status to their clothing line, or a text message to their friend cancelling on dinner. And the list goes on. 

The worst, and most frequent one, is people asking if I can write their CV (“resumé” to you Americans) for them. You’re a writer, they’ll say. It should be easy, which is where the fallacy kicks in — this is why the non-writer attempts to procure our services for free: It should be easy. Not only are they assuming that I have nothing better to do and my time has no value, but they also think writing is nothing more than finger-to-keys and thus their CV will be produced — wonderfully and with vivid prose — in the space of minutes.

What they don’t understand is that they could type up a CV in minutes. But to a writer, a CV will be just as hard as any piece of fiction he writes. He’ll spend a day or more doing the work; overanalysing every line, chopping and changing, plucking sentences out and tossing them back in, making sure the words are the best they can possibly be.

If I write them a cover letter, it’ll be re-read five thousand times, even if it’s only two paragraphs long. I’ll panic it’s not good enough. I’ll be insecure about it. I’ll rewrite it over and over. In the back of my mind I’ll know it’s fine, but as I’ve been specifically asked to write it, there’s an added weight of expectation. They know I’m a writer. They think I can pull a rabbit out of a hat — but this is merely a generic paragraph about his workmanship. I think they’re going to see through it and call me a fraud.

But most times they’ll read it quickly, say, “Cool, seems good,” and that’s it. Something I’ve spent almost twelve hours on is dismissed as if no more than a footnote.

Then I’ll have follow-up questions. Did your employer like it? What did he say about it? Did he notice line three? Oh, he didn’t mention it? Well go fuck yourself then.

And then I crawl back to my cave and tend to my wounds.


“There are three rules for writing a novel.
Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” 

W. Somerset Maugham


The point is: a writer’s time is valuable and not everyone understands or respects that. Everything from this blog post to a novel I’m working on to a simple Facebook post has some meticulous care and thought behind it. I’ve most likely written it three or four times, or at least tweaked it in a hundred different places. I’ve taken time and effort behind it. To the untrained eye, the words seem simplistic and therefore their creation must have been so.

As Nathaniel Hawthorne said: “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” And it’s true — if it looks easy to write, it probably wasn’t.

It’s not solely their fault, though. It’s up to you as a writer to demand respect for your craft. If you accept these menial tasks from your friends as if no more than writing out a shopping list, you’re not only diminishing your work, you’re allowing them to as well. In the future you’ll be their go-to guy (or girl) for tedious work: reports, essays, emails. Sometimes they think they’re doing you the favour. They know you write and they want to make you feel important by giving you a job you never asked for. Like Here ya go, buddy. Don’t say I never do anything for ya. Some of them even expect a thank you.

Be up front and honest. Writing is hard and you should be paid for it. Nowadays, when someone asks me to write something for them, I refer them to my fee. Friend or otherwise, I don’t have time to type up a three-page report as a favour. They won’t cut my lawn or pave my driveway to “help me out”, so I won’t put in my hard labour either.

Friends will understand. Acquaintances may take offence, but who cares?

If they’re not paying your bills, don’t sweat their opinions.


“Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.” 

Neil Gaiman


When you consider all the potential hassle you can end up with, sometimes it’s best not to mention it at all. If someone asks what you do, just say: I’m a jobless nobody. People rarely ask any follow-up questions. And they definitely don’t request your help with any simple paperwork they can quite easily do themselves.

And that’s the goal: to be ignored by all . . . and adored by many.

At the same time.

I’ve named it The Author’s Paradox.


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How A Mars Bar Gave Me Discipline
(Kind Of)

“We are what we repeatedly do.

Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

— Aristotle

At one point during my teen years, I became obsessed with self-discipline. I’d stand in a line for hours, with my legs aching, when I could easily sit down. I’d hang around in the freezing rain in spite of nearby shelter. I’d walk home for miles when I could just get on a bus and be back in minutes. I kept testing the limits of what I could withstand, both mentally and physically. I was training myself to be a strong-minded person. Up until then, I’d always been riddled with anxiety.

At the time, Mars was my favourite chocolate. I was addicted to it. Almost every day I’d buy a Mars and devour it in two or three bites. Sometimes I’d melt it in milk or mash it up into some ice cream. I couldn’t get enough of them. Then one day my mum mentioned diabetes, which shook me — at such a young age, diabetes seemed just as horrifying to me as cancer or AIDS or a broken spine. I realised I had to do something about it. So I bought a king-sized Mars, nibbled at the corner, and left it on the side.

The next day I nibbled the corner again, just the tiniest bite, and put it back in its spot. Day after day I repeated this action. This went on for weeks and eventually I nibbled the Mars down to a nub, then to nothing. I can’t remember the exact period, but it was at least a month, no more than two. For a teenager addicted to chocolate, it took a lot of self-discipline to withhold my urges. 

But I was determined to not let that fucking Mars get the best of me.

And weirdly enough, I don’t even like or buy them anymore.

You might be wondering how this is relevant to writing. 

I’ll tell you.


“If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment,

and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.” — Buddha


Self-discipline is one of the key components of a professional writer, and a lot of the time it’s the sole difference between the pro and the amateur — not talent (although that’s important too, if somewhat hard to measure), but discipline. Being a genius or naturally gifted with words means little if you rarely hone those skills. Travelling the world and being infused with life experience and different cultures is equally meaningless if you never empty your mind to the page.

Self-discipline is what sits you down and makes you type, even when you feel like shit. Even when the words are coming thick and slow and it seems like everything you write is trash. You need to treat writing like a full-time job. Dedicating only half an hour a week to your future is like building your dream house by laying one brick a year.

Plus writing requires so much more than completing just a single project (although, having said that, any completion of a project is to be celebrated). The true requirement is consistency. You must be consistently learning, growing, and experimenting with words. But most importantly, you must be writing. It doesn’t matter what: novels, blogs, stories, poems, whatever. That creative muscle in your brain should be worked — it should be the Arnold Schwarzenegger of writing brains; if your mind is turned into a human body, people should accuse you of taking steroids because it’s so fucking pumped up.

And all of that requires self-discipline . . . which can be taught.

You just need a little discipline to learn how to adapt to it. 

So you need discipline to learn discipline.

Some Catch 22 paradox type shit.

I’ll explain how. 


“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” — Lao Tzu


Take it one day at a time like a recovering drug addict. Every morning sit down at your desk (or stand at it, or lean on it — what do I care?) and load up your computer. That’s the first part. Even before you’ve told yourself you can’t write, or you won’t write, or you don’t want to write, you need to perch up in front of your laptop and flip it open.

Now load up a blank writing document. At first, if you don’t feel like doing anything else, that’s okay. Just sit there in front of it and stare at the blinking cursor. You can take the time to think of ideas, or meditate, or cry, or whistle, but make sure you don’t answer your phone or talk to people during this time. And keep doing that for a while. A week, a month, however long until you’re in the habit of going to your computer first thing, flipping it open and sitting down for a period of time in front of a blank writing document. 

What you’ll be doing is forming a mini-habit. Your brain will train itself to a mode of working. It’ll know that every morning (or every evening, if that’s easier — but try to make the time specific so it can anchor in your brain), you’ll sit down in front of your computer and open a writing document. Your next step after that will be to write something, but at first it doesn’t need to be anything important. 

If it’ll free up your mind, you can write any nonsense on the screen. For instance, if you’re planning to go shopping later that day, talk about it. Today I’m going shopping, after that I’m going home, then I’m going to have a bath, then I’ll eat, I don’t know, I’m just writing words blah blah oranges. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling. All you’re doing for now is creating a habit.

Before long, your brain will be used to you sitting and writing, which is usually the hardest part for most people: actually parking in front of the screen and typing. To anchor that habit even deeper, whenever you sit at the computer and type, put on the same playlist of music. Overtime these songs will become writing triggers. Your brain will know you’re ready to work as soon as it hears the playlist begin its cycle. But don’t listen to the same songs when you’re NOT writing or you’ll corrupt the habit-forming process. 

If you set aside an hour a day to do all of this, you’ll soon cement a writing habit into your daily routine. And the greatest part is that it won’t cause you any strain — you’re under no pressure to produce anything of value.

But now comes the hard part . . .


“A disciplined mind leads to happiness; 

an undisciplined mind leads to suffering.” — Dalai Lama


You’re at the screen and expected to write something valid; not just stream-of-conscious bullshit, but a story or blog post. If that fills you with fear and dread, that’s okay. For some people, even the thought of attempting to write can cripple them. Partly it’s anxiety (fear of failure or low self-esteem), but the other reason is a lack of discipline. You’re not used to sitting down and writing a masterpiece. You haven’t done it before. What makes you think you can do it now?

Fuck that. Throw that all away. Take all that negative thinking, fold it into a box, and set it on fire. 

Then take a moment to think about what you intend to write. Some writers can go in cold and produce blockbusters; others need to have an outline or a plan. It’s up to you which process works better, but for now, take a second to think about what you want to write. Do you already know? Have you already got the idea for your novel? Then break it down. You don’t have to start writing before it’s ready. Break it down until you know what your first chapter is going to be. Now give yourself a small target: write one scene.

What can debilitate a lot of writers is the sheer size and breadth of a novel. Thinking about writing so many pages and keeping it all coherent and interesting is like asking someone to imagine themselves building a pyramid with a spoon. It can seem impossible. But by breaking it into smaller, more digestible pieces, you only have to concentrate on the one scene ahead — just a few pages, no more than ten. You can do that, right? Or not?

Then break it down even further. Set yourself the task of one page.

If that’s still terrifying, tell yourself you just want to write a paragraph today. Anyone can write four or five lines. They don’t need to be good lines — they just need to be.

Then the next day you can write another paragraph, and keep going like that.

Eventually, with the building of your habit, and with some extra self-discipline, you should get into a routine. That paragraph will grow into two, then four, then six, then five pages. Before long, you’ll be tapping away at the keys for hours a day.

And if you’re not, and you’re still slacking and finding ways not to write?

Then pull your head out of the mud and slap yourself awake. 

Writers write — wannabes talk. Are you a writer or a wannabe?

Make that decision now, and then proceed to your corner.


“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” — Jim Rohn


Writing is hard for everyone. It’s no easier for the professionals than it is for the amateurs. The only difference is the comfort of a cheque at the end of their work. But they’re crying and sweating and swearing at their keyboards just like the rest of us.

They’re also working hard, day after day, to continue their success.

So take note: get your self into gear and work that brain muscle.

You can do it. You just gotta trick your brain into believing it.


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My advice for those considering writing as a career option:

Don’t do it. Pick teaching or be a lawyer or something.

Get out while you still can. It’s cold and dark in here.

And no one knows where to find the light switch.


“Don’t be ‘a writer’. Be writing.” ― William Faulkner


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Ubiquitous Dreams

“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep 

because reality is finally better than your dreams.”

— Dr. Seuss

Ever since the backend of my teen years I’ve had a dream to open a coffee-shop-slash-library. I envision it to be half Starbucks, half Waterstones: a place for writers and readers to commune.

I don’t know if a place like this already exists — maybe it does; and if it does, please send me a link to where I can find it. I’d love to hang out there. But in case it doesn’t, here’s the idea for my store. I’m going to outline it for you.

If someone wants to become my partner, or sink 50K into it, then great. We’ll get started right away. Until then, I’m going into this like Lenny and George’s farm dream: with rabbits, a field, and my imagination wide open. If you have a few minutes, I’d like you to join me . . .


“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” ― John Lennon


Every day I see people in Starbucks tucked away in a corner reading a novel, or at the table typing away on their laptops — writing reports, emails, death notes, or possibly even working on their first or fifth novel. J.K. Rowling reportedly wrote the bulk of her early Harry Potter books in a local coffee shop. The trend has a kind of mystique surrounding it. If you’re a writer, you’ll be seen in one of these places, sipping a latte and knuckling down to work.

My dream is to have a coffee shop similar to these, but one that’s specifically related to literature. It would be a known community for writers or readers of any ilk: professional, amateur, crime writer, children’s author, screenwriter, desperate housewife. A place everyone can go to either indulge in their love of reading, or get to work on their latest masterpiece in a tranquil and encouraging environment. The coffee, biscuits and assorted food and drink items would be there merely as fuel for your creativity.

But there’s more to it than that.


“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve:

the fear of failure.” — Paulo Coehlo


I’d name the place Ubiquitous — a kind of ironic nod to the ubiquity of current coffee shop masters, but also an in-joke to the writing and reading elite who’d instantly recognise the word and understand it, as opposed to the less educated who probably wouldn’t. For short, and for commercial purposes, it would be known simply as U-bix.

I’d split the interior into sections: an area for the casual drinker at the front, a corner for the readers (you can bring your own book, or pick one from the shelf), a mini-crèche way at the back for the mothers who never seem to find a moment of quiet time to pursue their writing dreams, and a section specifically set out for writers.

With free WiFi in place, writers of any kind (novelists, poets, or those writing romantic letters to long-lost loves and A-list movie stars) would be encouraged to set up their laptop and get to work. They wouldn’t be harassed into buying drinks or forced to spend a certain limit — they can relax into their writing, knowing that when they grow hungry or thirsty, they only have a few yards to walk for a refreshment. When they feel like taking a break, they can join the reading corner. Or go outside and stretch their legs to get the brain juices flowing again.

The reading area will consist of a wall-to-wall bookshelf carrying all the latest releases in a variety of genres. Customers can pick one and read it in one of the many comfortable chairs and beanbags. If they like the book, they can purchase it at the till. Customers would also have the option to download the book to their e-reading device.

We’d offer discounted books based on loyalty: for instance, with every five coffees/hot chocolates, the customer would be rewarded with a 10% discount or free e-book. If they’d prefer to simply read a novel in the store, day after day, without purchasing it, that’s okay too. Like a library, U-bix would encourage customers to hang around and read.

If enough people stopped by to read (and with a crèche in back for the mothers, it would be the perfect place for a relaxing afternoon), we’d hopefully be able to work a deal with Amazon and the larger book publishers. We’d promote their authors’ work in exchange for exclusive discount offers. It’s a win-win: they’d market their writers direct to the readers, and we’d have an up-to-date reading corner full of exciting new titles.

Alongside all of this, I have plenty of minor add-ons to implement.


“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” 

― Eleanor Roosevelt


The napkins would all have a quote on them — either about writing, or something uttered by a writer, or direct from a book, past or present. The drinks would also have a quote wrapped around their middle. If the customer is curious about the quote and wants to know more about the writer or the book it’s from, they can ask a member of staff who’d be happy to introduce them to more of the writer’s work. Just like in a bookshop, our staff would be there to recommend books to the customers or assist with their searches.

They would also help to inspire the writers by keeping up their spirits.

On top of that we’d run short story competitions weekly. We’d encourage writers to pen their stories in-store and the winners would find themselves prominently displayed on our website. Customers would then have the option to download the winners’ story on their phones or e-reading devices for free with their food and drink purchases. With enough participation in the long run, we’d eventually start a monthly free U-bix magazine filled with short stories for our customers (by our customers) to take away.

Or for them to read at the table with their morning coffees.


“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.” ― Vincent Van Gogh


Anyway, that’s the dream. A coffee shop specifically for people like me: writers. A place they’ll feel welcome and be actively encouraged to write. A place where they’ll be surrounded by others who are suffering like them: with writer’s block, with a hard scene, with a rough patch of dialogue they can’t fix. People who understand their plight.

And in the future, when I’m a multimillionaire writer, maybe I’ll be in a position to pursue it. For now, I’ll just imagine it and hope that one day it’ll become a reality. 

Maybe I’ll get lucky and Starbucks will steal the idea and set it up. 

Or maybe it’ll go the way of Lenny and George.

Who knows?


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For those who like the idea, do you have any suggestions on how it could be improved? As a writer (or reader) what would you like to see implemented in the store? How could U-bix improve your writing or reading experience? Write your ideas in the comments.

I’ll consider them all — and possibly add them to my dream world.

Along with my mansion, seven Ferraris, and multiple clones of my fiancée.


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Everything You Write Is Terrible
(But It Gets Better)

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.

You need to start somewhere.”

— Anne Lamott

At the hormonal and complicated age of 14, I held no desire, secret or otherwise, to be a writer. My dream was to be a professional footballer. Schoolwork bored me. I found writing essays and book reports tedious, although I had an aptitude for English. Then one day my teacher assigned the class coursework: we had to write a short story based off the title A Moment Of Crisis. He didn’t specify what we had to write about, just as long as it was inspired by the title. 

In those days, before the writing bug bit me, I hated writing of all kinds, but especially creative writing. For whatever reason I’d convinced myself I didn’t have an imagination, and wouldn’t be able to pen anything interesting anyway. Poems, stories, novels, they all seemed like hard work with no possible upside. Hard work for the sake of it, which is the worst kind. My poems were always acrostic because I was too lazy to construct something original from scratch, and my stories, up until that point, were always written by my mum — along with the rest of my English coursework.

But something compelled me to give this one a shot.


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Mr. Judelson gave us a deadline and the class hunkered down to work. The person next to me began writing a drama about her father — I’m assuming she had skeletons in her closet she needed to dig through. Behind me, a girl chose an even deeper subject: her story revolved around a teenager sitting outside a waiting room, deciding whether to abort a baby or not. I still remember those two stories, because at the time they seemed too bleak to me. Boring and lifeless. Who gives a shit about abortions or absent fathers? I wondered. 

My attention span has always been on the small side. If I’m not entertained fairly quickly, I switch my brain off and move on to a different task. I’ve long suspected I have some type of ADHD. Fortunately I’ve been able to focus that extra energy into my work, which not only keeps my mind occupied but gives me an outlet. If I don’t have a book in my hand, or some work to edit or write, or a TV programme to watch, I feel lost. I hate not doing anything. Maybe I’m just a workaholic or unsatisfied with life. I’ll ask a shrink one day. Either way, I didn’t have the time or the inclination to write a boring incest abortion drama. I wanted to write something that would get the heart pumping: meaning action, blood, gore, and a couple lipstick lesbians to decorate the cake. So instead of taking the route of my nearest classmates — plumbing the depths of their emotions for something deep and literary — I chose to write something closer to a film scene: a bank heist.

Probably in an attempt to rebel against my teacher, or the school system, or whatever constricted me at the time, I filled my story with swear words, sex scenes, and gratuitous violence. I didn’t think it was allowed, but I stuck it all in there anyway. I figured if I was being forced to write, I might as well get some enjoyment out of it.

Which I did. Although the story was terrible in almost every way.


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Zero thought went into the construction of my story. On top of that, many of the scenes made little to no sense. It was like a Michael Bay movie: I was blowing shit up for the sake of it. Everything lacked context or motive. One scene in the early version was so horrific my mother forced me to cut it out. At the time she’d been typing the story up on her computer at work — we either didn’t have a computer at home yet, or it was broken. I can’t remember. In any case, she stopped typing and refused to add the scene into the final version. (She also changed I’m scared shitless to I’m scared enough to shit myself because she hadn’t heard of the word shitless before. But that’s irrelevant.)

The scene she cut involved one of the main criminals in the bank heist penetrating one of the hostages with his pump-action single-barrel shotgun, using the weapon as some kind of metal dildo, fucking this girl on the bank floor until she orgasmed. Her screams of delight coincided with the criminal pulling the trigger — a double explosion, so to speak. I still remember the scene vividly. I thought it was hilarious, smart, groundbreaking, edgy and it probably derived from too much Eminem and maybe a sublayer of teenage misogyny. Who knows? Thankfully, though, my mother forced me to cut it out.

My point is: I wrote it in the first place. I then read it back and thought it was good. And it wasn’t. It was a ridiculous, utterly unrealistic, and quite possibly offensive and needless scene. At fourteen I had no idea what I was doing.

When I finally handed it in to be graded, I expected the work to be torn up, and I thought I’d be sent to the Head Teacher’s office to be told off. Instead, Mr. Judelson loved it and gave me a B-plus. He called it “terrifying” and “inventive” and praised it to the roof. I recall him reading some of it to the class.

Looking back, however, the story was horrible.

Badly written and amateurishly executed.

But I wrote it. 


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My second story wasn’t much better. It might even have been worse. HiJack was written without any assignments set by my teacher. It was about — nothing, essentially. It followed a character called Jim Sullivan as he gets a flat tire and pulls to the side of the road. Out of nowhere (and for no discernible reason) some people try to shoot him. He deals with them, and then a drunken tramp wanders along the motorway and attacks him. He deals with him too, but then runs across the road to escape the police and gets hit by a truck, which somehow snags his top and drags him five miles before stopping. The hero then unhooks himself and claws his way toward a nearby gas station, which, inconveniently (and randomly) is being held-up. He crawls across the floor in time for the masked robber to blow the store to pieces. That’s basically the gist of it. I don’t need to tell you how bad it is — you can see just from the outline.

And it didn’t get much better.

My third story was also a letdown. And my fourth and fifth. I have a folder full of my early failed attempts. Half-finished novels, half-finished stories, completed stories which would have been better off half-finished, poems, raps, children’s books — I wrote everything; and in those early exciting days I thought they were all amazing. Every single thing I wrote seemed to be a gift from above wrapped in gold. My ego was moon-sized and even when I detected flaws in my writing, I still believed it was greater than most.

In hindsight, they were so bad it’s almost unbelievable. I look back on that work and try to decipher the mindset that created them, but I don’t remember him.

I don’t remember me — not that version anyway. I was a terrible writer.

You’ve probably heard the phrase It’s darkest before the light.

Well, my writing world was pitch — fucking — black.


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Now, over fifteen years later, I’d like to think I’ve improved somewhat. It took a while: partly my youth was a reason. I had a lot of dumb kid shit to get out of my writing system — immature ideas, juvenile humour, etc. I didn’t particularly care about school either, which meant by the time I grew serious about my craft I had to relearn grammar  and spruce up on my skills. On top of that, I read a lot of books on story construction, character creation, plot formation, etc. — soaking in a library’s worth of writing advice and learning through trial and error. For a long time my stories, in spite of my newly found wealth of knowledge, were still of low quality. It took months (maybe even years) of honing until I at least hit a level of competency. And I’m still in the apprenticeship stage: learning, growing, building toward a bigger future.

So if you’re doubting yourself right now, stop it. Everything you write might well be absolute trash. You can see it, your friends can see it, probably even your family — everyone knows you’re writing piles of dragon shit. But unlike singing, where perhaps you need an in-built aptitude and the right type of lungs or natural ability to hit the high notes, writing can be learned. Maybe not direct from teachers and manuals, but through constant repetition and revision, and also by approaching your work (and that of others) with a critical mind, you’ll naturally improve.

And even though some of your bad traits may linger on regardless, a lot of the time those traits are what define us — it’s the idiosyncrasies of our craft that make us stand out and gives us a unique voice.

Just don’t give up because you’ve written a few bullshit stories. That doesn’t mean you’re terrible. It means you’re learning. Babies don’t come out of the womb knowing how to walk and skate and play football. They pick it up as they go along. They practice. You’re doing the same. The only difference between someone who’s good and someone who’s terrible is that one of them kept on going. It’s imperative you practice, and lots.

It’s not acceptable to write a novel for three months, then take a year break and start again. How does that work? Every time you begin learning the process, you go away and the memories fade and your writing muscle weakens. You’ll take one step forward, two steps back and always fight an uphill battle. A week off here and there is fine, but never longer than a month. Train your writing the same way you would your body. If you do that, I guarantee you’ll stop producing subpar work or awkward prose.

One day, years later, you’ll look back on your early efforts and cringe. But you’ll also look at your current writing and realise how much you’ve progressed. And that’s when you’ll know all the hard work and tears has been worth it.

Just don’t ever give up. Keep fighting, keep writing, and you’ll make it.

Put your heart into your work and don’t stop until it stops.

That’s the only thing that really matters in this game.


Untitledljn.


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