Watched a brilliant documentary the other evening on David Bowie entitled Five Years. What was consistently striking about it was his dedication to his craft and the fact that he constantly evolved and changed what he was doing. Musically he never stood still – as evidenced by the extraordinary variety in his music throughout his life right up to his recent release The Next Day.
Like him or hate him there is a lot to admire about him and a lot to be reminded about as writers.
Number one is discipline. The discipline to sit down and write, to research, to promote, to learn more about the craft – but above all to write. To use the time that you have (and this varies for everyone, it can be snatched moments between work, children, daily life or it can be unfettered time) in the best way. It is a mega cliché but time passes and once it has gone it has gone – so you owe it to yourself as a writer to use it well.
Number two is to make sure that with each project you take on you extend your abilities, move yourself on – go forward. This is no different than in any type of work or occupation if you are lucky enough to be working in an area that allows for this – take yourself to the next level. Make it better. Stretch your brain. Never be satisfied. In writing we can do this as it is self directed, it is up to us as writers to manage what we do and how we do it.
Number three is cooperation – and this is different for musicians than for writers. The evolution of a song is very different to the evolution of a novel. Writing is a solitary occupation – but it does not have to be lonely. Being part of a writers group is one way of cooperating – or getting the corners rubbed off you! Sharing your writing with a partner, your children, writing friends, illustrators is another. This is not for everyone. I know of writers who work till its done and then let it out into the light. I am not like that – I like feedback, I think it improves my writing.
And Number Four is I suppose be true to yourself. To do this you have to know yourself, but when you do be true to who your are. Because it shows.
Now I just have to go and remind myself to listen to my own advice – far easier to give advice than to follow it.