Goodreads asked David Alan Armstrong:

What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

David Alan Armstrong 1. Be consistent. Writing must be a habit. Whether you are writing a novel, an essay, a non-fiction article, a family history or a personal journal, write every day. Find your peak time when you have energy. Find a place free of distractions. Create regularity in your writing habit. Your brain will engage quickly and efficiently when it reacts to routine. If you are constantly surprising yourself with a new time and a different location, your mind will spend too much time adjusting and not enough time creating.

2. Practice. Writing is a skill. It is true that it is highly creative, but beneath all the magical creativity is a craft that has to be learned. Improving your writing is just like improving the ability to play a musical instrument or paint a picture or build a beautiful piece of furniture. Great ideas without the craft to execute them are wasted. Effective practice requires instruction, repetition, and feedback. Take classes and read books about writing, use what you have learned in your writing, and then solicit honest feedback from professionals.

3. Join a writers' club. A writers' group is an excellent place to get feedback on your writing while giving you insight into the writing of others. Look for a group that includes a variety of interests, genres, and experience levels. Online groups can be just as effective as face-to-face groups. Make sure you find a group where respect and courtesy are promoted along with honesty. Just rubbing shoulders with other writers is inspiring and motivating.

4. Be humble and teachable. Assume that you always have something to learn. If you have chosen people you trust and respect to give you feedback, assume they are giving you honest insights, which you can use to improve your writing. Writing can be very personal. You are putting your heart and soul into a creative effort that may express something deeply meaningful to you. It is hard to hear that your baby has warts. Nevertheless, look for opportunities to learn and improve.

5. Accept all criticism graciously. Assume that most criticism is meant to be constructive and helpful. Some criticism and suggestions will be right on. Others may be dead wrong. When it comes to writing, right and wrong are highly subjective. You do not have to act on all the criticism you receive, but don't be defensive. Always thank the person who has been brave enough to offer feedback, whether or not you believe it or accept it. The more graciously you receive and respond to feedback, the more likely you are to continue to receive feedback. The more feedback you receive, the more likely it is that at least some of it will be helpful.

6. Write what you like. If you write merely to sell, writing will become just another job. It is hard to get inspired and stay engaged in a project you do not really like. For the vast majority of writers, writing will always be a hobby. Of the millions of books published every year, only a few make the best-seller list. If you go into writing thinking you will get rich, or even make a living, the odds are very high that you will be disappointed. The goal, first and foremost, should be to spend your time doing something you enjoy. If you get more pleasure from woodworking or painting than writing, leave writing alone and concentrate on what brings you joy. If you like poetry, then write beautiful poetry, and don't worry about whether anyone will buy it. Life is too short to be a slave to a particular market niche.

7. Don't expect to write a blockbuster. Blockbusters are made by marketers, not by authors. Many excellent literary works never make the best-seller lists or get turned into movies. If your aspiration is to write the very best book or article or essay you can, and it expresses something about which you feel passionate, and you say it in an appropriate way, you can expect to feel deep gratification when you have finished your project. Find the joy in the process rather than the product. Anything that happens beyond that glorious moment of completion is an added bonus.

8. Keep writing. It is easy to second guess yourself. In the solitary hours of writing, you will doubt yourself, your ability, your motivation, the value of what you are doing. The details can become overwhelming, and the unrequited effort will seem useless. You are sure you are wasting your time. Don't give in to these temptations. You had a vision, a purpose, and a determination when you started your project. Don't give up. See it through to the end. The vision may lapse for a moment, but it will return. Stay focused on the end goal and keep writing. It will be worth it.

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