By Petra Guglielmetti. Photos: Getty Images.
Maybe the beginnings of a novel won’t stop rattling around your head. Maybe you’ve been thinking about starting a blog for so long that you can’t even read blogs anymore because so much jealous frustration. Maybe you’re preparing to pour your soul into a grad-school application essay. Maybe you long to be an influential (or hilarious) voice on social media. Whatever version of “writer” lurks inside you, it’s not always easy to let her out. “You’re not alone in your intimidation. It’s completely normal—but overcomable,” says Elisabeth Egan, books editor for Glamour and author of A Window Opens. In fact, it’s part of what lead Egan and Glamour to launch a new online writing course with Udemy. The series of 49 mini-lectures featuring six top-selling authors helps would-be writers overcome fear, find a voice, and craft a ready-to-publish personal essay. “Students hear from actual working writers who share the same obstacles when it comes to getting a first draft on the page, and how they get motivated, get inspired and keep going,” Egan says.
If you’re feeling ready to finally write something more significant than a really good Facebook status update, here’s a crash course: We asked the aforementioned successful authors to share their best tips for getting going as a writer; here are the top 11.
- Stop waiting for the perfect moment or muse.Yes, inspiration is important. And yes, writers are the best procrastinators. But to become a writer, you do have to eventually hit those keys. So just start now. To put it bluntly … “There’s no muse—just crank it out,” says Stephanie Clifford, author of Everybody Rise.
- Make the time.Allot yourself at least a half hour each day to write. Set aside time in your calendar. Even if your topics are mortifyingly basic at first. “Describe what your desk looks like. Explain how you feed your cat,” Clifford says. “The goal is to get over the fear of writing and exercise that muscle. You just need to get words down on your computer screen, and you need to wake up tomorrow and do the same thing.”
- Tell us about your day.Penning dear-diary stuff may feel painfully dull (or just plain painful), but the daily exercise pays off over time. “Keeping a journal is the number-one best way to develop your written voice,” says Camille Perri, author of The Assistants.
- Find silence.You don’t need to go full Walden pond, but minimize modern distractions while you write. “Hide your phone, disconnect your internet, put obstacles between you and the television,” says Ed Park, author of Personal Days.
- Read new things.Especially when you feel stuck or uninspired. “Everyone who writes starts out as a reader,” says J. Courtney Sullivan, author of The Engagements. “Feeling inspired by, or just plain envious of, someone else's talent can be motivating. It can also help to put aside whatever you're struggling with and try to write something new.”
- Do your own thing.At the same time, it’s important to avoid mirroring your favorites. “If you are trying to write like someone else, or write in a certain genre just because it's popular, you are bound to sound artificial and strained. And no one wants to read artificial and strained,” says Jessica Knoll, author of Luckiest Girl Alive. “No matter what story or what voice resides in you, it is more important for it to be true than for it to fit the mold.”
- Get out and move.Any seasoned writer learns one thing: Staring at a blinking cursor is death. To get past writer’s block during a project, back away from the keyboard. Get a glass of water, shower, go outside. “I am constantly stopping in the middle of the street to jot down a note on my phone,” says Knoll, who works out plot kinks during afternoon walks and runs. “I find that physical movement begets movement in your mind.”
- Stay readable.“I’m passionate about social and political issues and everything I write will likely have an undercurrent of social or political consciousness—but (hopefully!) never at the expense of being enjoyable,” Perri says.
- Do something that scares you.Instagram-cliché but true: New experiences have a way of getting the words flowing. “Remember that input is as important as output,” Perri says. “Take in something for inspiration, to re-light the fire inside you, and ideas on how to fix whatever isn’t working in your writing will usually follow.”
- Don’t quit.You will likely need to revise, revisit, rethink and repeat—many times—before reaching your goal. “There’s rejection along the way and it can be easy to want to give up,” says Imbolo Imbue, author of Behold the Dreamers. “Keep writing.”
- Take Glamour’s online writing course!Delve into the details of writing—framing a subject, developing characters, tackling revisions—by signing up for the course. Plus, you get on-call motivation anytime. “You can take the course at your own pace, at any time of day that works for you—but you also have that human element, who is me, urging you along,” Egan says.
This story originally appeared on Glamour.
More from Glamour: