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What Every Aspiring Writer Should Know about Writing

July 26, 2016

This was posted on Quora. I loved his touch of humor. ~ Connie

What should every aspiring writer know about writing?
Zachary Norman, Video game designer – worked at Activision and EA and founded Jamdat Mobile

My father is a writer. A good one. His name is Marc Norman.
He wrote Shakespeare In Love and a hundred other scripts and novels and has two oscars on his mantle.
He told me this about writing…
It’s a full time job. To be successful you must be disciplined. You do it from nine to five, five days a week. Focus on your work for forty hours and put it away at night and on the weekends. When you’re blocked write something else, sonnets, poems, the “other novel”, love letters. The point is you must write full-time. A writer’s talent is a muscle that must be worked out, and like a bicep it will strengthen with use.
Writers write alone, in quiet. Writers don’t write in coffee-shops. Silence is the blank canvas onto which the world of the work is drawn.
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Update: I felt compelled to update this post after a couple years of it being live. Many commenters have criticized my note above about silence and my recommendation that aspiring writers shun coffee shops. Allow me to clarify…
The Japanese are very serious about learning things. They rank their progress with belts (called Dan) and apply ranks to learning and apprenticeship broadly. They teach the concept of Shuhari, “Shu, ha, ri” which literally translates “Obey, digress, separate”.
The question is what every “aspiring writer should know”, not what every “successful writer should know”. Aspiring writers are in the Shu phase…
•    shu (守?) “protect”, “obey” — traditional wisdom — learning fundamentals, techniques, heuritics, proverbs.
Neophyte writers must focus on writing fundamentals and discipline. My father’s point is that one must master technique and become accustomed to having your butt in the seat, without distraction for 8 hours a day, no more and no less.
Once the aspiring writer has built a foundation of discipline and technique, then and only then can they move on to style, voice, differentiation and indeed writing in less regimented environments… to the more advanced ha and ri phases.
Coffee shops are filled with ‘wannabe’ writers who think, ‘whats good for J.K. Rowling is good for me’. Maybe. If you’re lucky. That’s my father’s point. Successful artists rely on technique and discipline; and with those skills, avoid needing luck.

From → Writer's Craft

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