One of my brothers wants to start writing fiction, and we’ve been talking about the writing process the last few days. While I would also like to write fiction, I had to confess to him that my imagination is not creative or active enough to do that. This is not low perceived self-efficacy on my part. I’m a positive realist and am just stating the facts.
I think it’s important that a writer know her genre and stick with it. That’s not to way that you should never try to venture out into something new, but at the same time I cannot imagine e.e. cummings writing a murder mystery or Gillian Flynn writing romantic poetry. And I’m writing C.S. Lewis and John Sanford’s names in the same sentence just to see if they look weird or extreme placed in such close proximity.
The chats with my brother and my subsequent thinking have led to my 10th tip: Know your strengths and play to them. Know your weaknesses also. While it’s fine and even encouraged to work on your weaknesses, if you continue to experience failure and frustration, then why not just go back to what you’re good at? Marianne Williamson once wrote of a person who needed a little encouragement to pursue the dream of becoming an actor. The person asked, “What if God wants me to be an accountant?” (paraphrase) Williamson’s answer was (another paraphrase), “Don’t you think He can find enough people who are good with numbers to do that?” Exactly!
What are your strengths? What kind of writing can you do? What comes naturally and what might need a little more coaxing from your muse? Whatever your abilities, if you have something to say, there is someone out there who needs to hear/read it. Some days I want to read something from the enormously successful Stephen King who reportedly said, “I am the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries.” Other days, I want to read about the economic conditions of Burundi or the price of eggs in China.
What I’m saying to my brother and to anyone else who feels that little yen, that niggling feeling in the back of your mind to write, then just do it. And play to your own strengths and propensities. Don’t try to be Stephen King, Zadie Smith, or Maya Angelou. Be you. And be you now. As Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”