My goal for this series of blog posts is for writers to save themselves a lot of time and frustration. This series is meant to get you on the path toward publication, provided you put in the work of writing and revising. Don't worry if you don't follow all these recommendations--who could? I'll be the first to admit that even I'm guilty of sometimes not using my time wisely--look for my tip on social media! But overall this series contains hard-won truths on how to make writing a bigger part of your life. I hope it clarifies the publishing guidelines, professional etiquette, and protocols you may have been unsure about in the past. More than anything, I hope it puts you on track toward opportunities you may not have imagined.
One of the best ways to become a better writer is to make writing a habit. Be in the habit of writing down notes to yourself and seeing the world like a writer would. There will undoubtedly be days, weeks, and even months where you feel very little is happening in your writing life, but it's important that you always return to writing.
Over the years I have tried to continually grow as a writer by taking part in creative writing workshops, reading widely, and learning to write in different genres. Life is a great teacher and offers so many experiences we can draw upon in creative work, but in order to become a better writer, it's important to return to the page somehow, whether it's through a creative writing exercise, an evening creative writing club, or scheduling a nightly thirty minute window to free-write.
Over the years I've incorporated several of these tactics to help spur new poems and new stories. Early on, it's especially helpful to engage with other people who can provide feedback. But only you can put in the time and devote the attention toward making your work stronger. And it will take a lot of work. This is not something you can learn overnight.
Writing in different genres has helped me continue to write. By this I mean, that having that element of surprise and discovery has made writing an endlessly rewarding part of my life. If I had never taken it upon myself to learn more about fiction then I suppose I would still be writing poetry, but I would still feel a little in the dark about other genres--and curious, I'm sure, about how one writes a novel, or a short story.
Most writers are driven to write. If you're anything like me, you feel as though it's only through writing that you understand anything. I like the freedom of discovery writing allows. I write to understand the world around me. I may not always find the answers, but even getting the questions on the page is valuable, I think. Nevertheless, giving yourself the freedom to write what you are compelled to write, is vital.
Tasha Cotter, @TashCotter, is a poet and fiction writer based in Lexington, Kentucky. She is the author of two chapbooks of poetry and the full-length collection, Some Churches (Gold Wake Press, 2013). You can find her online at www.tashacotter.com.