There are a lot of things that drive one to dream of becoming a writer. There's the charm of literature, with some books so inspiring it can change one's life. While it quenches the soul, writing, many surely agree, is not the most lucrative profession—one of some barries to hold back anyone from pursuing such dream. For both New York Times best-selling author Erin Entrada Kelly and young adult author Adi Alsaid, though, don't stop dreaming! ABS-CBN Lifestyle chatted the luminaries up at the recently held Philippine Readers and Writers Festival 2018, where we learnt of the biggest don'ts in chasing one's literary passions.
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Don’t be afraid to suck. Adi shared an interesting take on writer’s block, which he learned from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan. “It’s just the fear of writing badly. We all do that at some point but we have the luxury of going back, catching our mistakes, and editing our work,” he told us. There are also a bunch of people—like your critics and editors—who can help you fix your piece and get it to where it needs to be, he added.
Don’t let your lack of creative inspiration ruin your progress. “Keep your creative fire burning by reading and writing as much as you can,” stressed Erin, suggesting that it may be wise to consider joining a writing community. For Adi, who processes his experiences by writing about them, it’s a swing between being an introvert and extrovert. “I spend a lot of time taking a walk, consuming arts, and watching movies to energize myself. When too much of that drains me, I refill my fuel by hanging out with people.” It would be best to do this while traveling, he shares. “If you have the means, go out and explore different kinds of cultures and ways of life. Meeting people extends your understanding of the world and that always turns into inspiration to write better.” If these don’t work, the YA author assures you can draw inspiration from anything. “It may be something as deep as grief or as simple as sweet potato fries you had at a random restaurant. There are so many ways to get engaged creatively.”
Don’t settle once you reach your writing goals. The best-selling authors believe that simply telling yourself to write better is too vague. Adi recalled, “When I started, I wanted to do a thousand words every single day and not stray from that. Your target may be to write a chapter a month or to write every day on your lunch break for fifteen minutes. Make it specific, then check at the end of the day if you have accomplished it.” You can apply these definite goals to writing prompts, said Erin. “There are a lot of writing prompts online. The key is to not expect something to be perfect right off the bat. It takes practice like anything else so you just have to start and power through.”
Don’t allow criticism to bring you down. Erin continued, “In order to get better, you have to be open to feedback and use it to improve your craft.” Keeping this in mind could help you figure out what would work and what won’t in writing your next story.
Don’t get discouraged by rejection. “Rejection may come in different forms, especially if you have a career built from art. You’re going to see a lot of it even when you’re published or have movie deals,” Adi said. Erin could only add, “Use it to your advantage! Use it to push yourself to write a better piece next time.”
Don’t resent other people’s success. Adi mused, “Jealousy is something that’s easy to fall into especially on Twitter. You see someone else hit the best-seller list, someone got an award, or a movie deal. It’s very easy to feel like you deserve attention but it’s always going to be a much more enjoyable time if you try to focus on your accomplishments and work on the things you can control.” The novelist also put forward the importance of being happy for others, cheering them on, and lifting them up as he reminded us of something we tend to overlook, saying “There are people who are going to do that for you.”
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Photographs taken from instagram.com/uhhdee and erinentradakelly.com