"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." -Vladimir Nobokov

Saturday, December 22, 2012

5 Things I Learned About Writing in 2012

(Note: This post is a response to "5 Things I Learned about Writing this Year" by Stephanie Morrill over at Go Teen Writers.)

When I read this post over at Go Teen Writers, something about it struck a chord. I've always been the kind of person who prefers to look forwards rather than back, so thinking about what I've learned about writing over the course of this year never really occurred to me. However, now that I think about it, reassessing your progress can be a valuable technique. It's important to remember that it's not just about the face-level accomplishments. It's not about how many words you've written, or the number of short stories you finished, or the novel still languishing in your drawer. It's about the changes your writing has undergone, and how it has changed you as a person. Keeping that in mind, here are 5 things I've learned about writing in 2012:

1. The importance of community: This summer I attended the Iowa Young Writer's Studio. The group of other teenage writers that I met there changed my life. We keep in touch through Facebook and I now have an active community of writers all over the world who I can turn to to find advice and inspiration. Not only that, but I've been lucky enough to find a group of friends at my school who are also passionate about writing, and together we've done so many great things. Oh, and joining Twitter* was probably the best thing that's happened to me on the social media front, besides starting this blog, of course. :) 

2. Time will always be a limiting factor-so work around it: This year more than ever has been extremely busy: from getting through the second semester of my junior year, to all the traveling I did during the summer, and not to mention the two or three months I spent on college applications. If you want to work on the projects that mean the most to you, you have to make time for them. Don't wait for your schedule to clear up, because chances are, it won't.

3. Trust your instincts: I learned this mostly from all the college application essays I had to write, but it applies to all writing (and life in general, for that matter). If something you've written doesn't feel right, don't give up and call it a day because you're tired or you tell yourself it's "good enough." For a while I thought the first draft of my Common Application essay was fine as is, but in the end I chose to re-write it completely and the finished result was ten times better than the original. The same rule applies the other way around, too. If someone wants you to change something about your work and you disagree with them, by all means consider it, but if you still come to the conclusion that it is not the best thing for your story or poem, then don't do it. After all, it's your work, and you have to satisfy yourself first. 

4. Be concise and to the point: Another lesson learned from writing application essays. When you only have 300 words to showcase a piece of yourself, you don't have room to ramble. The same goes for other types of writing: If you can say the same thing in fewer words, do it.

5. Don't forget to live a little: Writing is hard, and no matter what you think, staring at a blank screen all day most likely isn't going to break your writer's block. Get up, get moving, and take a break from writing if you need one. You'll come back to your computer refreshed and hopefully brimming with ideas. (Also, if you're worried about missing inspiration when you're out and about, consider carrying a purse sized notebook wherever you go and write in it when you see something that might be useful. Oh! and read this beautiful essay: On Keeping a Notebook by Joan Didion.)

What have you learned about writing this year?

*If you'd like to follow me, my Twitter handle is @laurapoet33


  1. "Don't forget to live a little" is something I regularly have to remind myself! That it's okay to not always be in a writing season. Great post, Laura!

  2. Thanks Stephanie! I'm so glad you liked this post. Go Teen Writers has been such an inspiration to me and I really enjoyed responding to one of your posts. Can't wait for more awesome happenings in 2013!