Today’s guest post is brought to you by author J.D. Oldenburg!
1. Understand that overwhelm happens.
Overwhelm is part of beginning any process, and that’s ok.
We get overwhelmed when we don’t know exactly where to start, because we put our focus on dreams and end goals, instead of the blank page in front of us.
Vast amounts of people quit before they start because they don’t know where to begin.
You will gain confidence from thinking more about daily steps and a little less about the bigger picture.
Realize that nothing comes instantaneously. Don’t loose excitement because of this.
If you’ve never written before, don’t fret so much on that first novel or googling your chances of success. Start instead with short stories, and allow yourself to fall in love with the process.
Do this and you will beat any odds you can find on google.
2. Forget about “perfect” end results.
A big problem I had when I started writing was my craft didn’t live up to my expectations. I thought I was ready for a big worldwide novel, but I had never written anything in my life. The discrepancy between my aspirations and my craft created a lot of stress.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t dream, I still do. I’m saying focus on the now, and write stories without falling in love with them so hard you can’t edit anything out of them. Learn to go through them objectively, and become a better writer.
It’s not a baby, it’s a story! So don’t be afraid to amputate it, flip it, morph it or even kill it.
It’s about falling in love with the process.
Remember this: An accomplished goal is nothing but a reminder of the energy you had to put in to achieve it. In other words, if writing it feels shitty and stressful, the result will smell of shit and stress.
3. Free-write first thing out of bed.
I learned this from Louder Than Words, a fantastic book on finding your voice by Todd Henry.
This will be an amazing exercise in helping you figure out what you really want to write about. It will massively improve confidence in the work process.
Wake up, grab pen and notepad and scrabble away. This is for you, so don’t worry about grammar or punctuation. Just write!
I like to do between two and three pages each morning, that’s probably little over six hundred words a day. You can do more or less, it’s up to you.
Give it a try for at least three days, see how your ideas start flowing. If they don’t, guess what, it means you need to keep going!
Solid ideas come to you from deep in the subconscious mind, often when you are fresh out of bed. These same ideas will be long gone a few hours later when you’ll find yourself thinking, “What was that brilliant thing I wanted to write about?”
Treat your ideas with respect, write them down when they hit you. If you wait till later they may still be there, but they are likely to move on to someone else.
Spew your thoughts freely, put the notepad down, and come read it a few days later. You’ll be surprised by how interesting the things your sleepy-self wrote turn out to be.
Release the stress of wanting a “good” idea. There is no need for such pressure right now, and it makes your ideas shy. STOP THAT!
4. Read more widely.
I am blown away by how many people tell me they want to be writers, but haven’t found the confidence to do it, and when I ask them, “well, what do you like to read?” they frown and go, “meh, I don’t read much.” Or “not much of a reader myself.”
Not something you want to be advertising too loudly if you ask me, mind you…
If you are serious about bettering your craft, you HAVE to read. Read what you like, read what you don’t like, read what you despise, read what you absolutely adore, read what others read, and read what falls randomly on your lap.
There is no better way to find out what to do and what not to do than reading. Also, I find psychology books to be of incredible insight for creating three-dimensional characters. Of the top of my head, I can recommend A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle.
If you are new to reading a lot, try audio books, and add twenty minutes of reading before bed to your day. Audiobooks are amazing, and yes you’ll absorb them like reading. It’s not cheating.
You want to build yourself up to reading a novel or two a month if you can. Find your pace.
Remember you love this, so don’t freak out, get on it!
Reading Is an acquired taste, and once it’s there, it won’t go away. It will give you confidence not only in your writing but in your life as well.
Remember that knowledge increases self-confidence.
5. Listen to your gut.
Here is one thing one must always keep in mind: Everyone has an opinion!
The first few steps of this list are about learning to become more objective, detached from results, and able to accept your own shortcomings so you can improve upon them.
This one is about trusting that you can develop an optimal sense of self-assessment so you can see when your work is good or needs to be better.
Asking for too many opinions can massively impair your judgment.
People have different intentions, sometimes good, sometimes not so much. It wasn’t until I started to listen to myself that my work began to get completed.
Not everyone is worth asking an opinion, so choose carefully.
And when you do…
6. Grow thicker skin.
Simple, please don’t be the pal or gal who wants to know what I think, but disses me out when my opinion is honest and not what she expected.
If this happens to you, refer to number two in the list. If you are too attached to the result, to the idea that anyone project alone will change your life forever, you are still green.
The reality is, that one project that will change your life will come after many, many hours spent writing crap that will never see the light of day.
THIS IS OK!! I have so much crap no one will ever read, I could fill my car if I printed it.
This goes from films to novels and scripts. It’s always painful to accept a project doesn’t work, but once you do, it is actually quite liberating, and you can study why it didn’t work, and do better.
I will never regret writing crap. It teaches me to tell better stories and speaking of stories, don’t forget to check out my latest one, Horatio and The Fear of Dying.
About J.D. Oldenburg
J.D. Oldenburg (Jose Diaz-Oldenburg) grew up with an unusually intense fear of death. He didn’t suffer trauma or family member’s death in his early youth, yet as a little kid he often sat with his parents to ask concerned questions about the subject. Conversations about death took place almost every evening. Some nights he understood, some nights he feared.
At the early age of nine, he confronted his anxiety by penning a short tale titled “La Muerte de la Muerte” or, Death of Death. A short story inspired by Jim Henson’s 1997 adaptation of an old Russian Folktale called The Soldier and Death.
In early 2015, La Muerte de la Muerte showed up hidden between old books in the family library and a new idea was born. Horatio and The Fear of Dying would come to life.
Armed with a bachelor’s degree in film, a couple of highly encouraging rejection letters, and seven years of experience in film production and advertising, J.D. felt compelled to bypass traditional publishing and retain full control of the final product. He built his creative team through persistence, trial and error, and craigslist ads. After locking the right artists, they embarked on an almost three-year process to the final creation released now.
J.D. hopes the book will help kids all over the world ease this universal fear and gain a strengthened sense of adventure about life.
Horatio and The Fear of Dying comes to Kickstarter October 3rd, 2017 – It will be available for shipping worldwide.
J.D. Oldenburg lives in Los Angeles, California.
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