The new semester has begun at the University of Maine at Augusta, and as I was preparing for class I happened across Ezra Pound’s article “A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste.”

Though it’s a little negative for my tastes, I thought I would try my hand at a similar list for anyone interested in pursuing writing of their own. So, in honor of Ezra Pound, here are a few don’ts for new writers.

1. Don’t be discouraged by the successes of others.

In any endeavor, there seems to always be that one person to whom things come naturally. Watching other people excel at the thing you love can be intimidating and, to be honest, a little off-putting.

I’ve had the thought that, if someone else can do it better, why should I even make an attempt? But if every fledgling writer had let that thought stop them from writing, we would have way fewer books, and the stories that deserve to be told wouldn’t be. One thing I’ve learned throughout the years of writing and reading is that writing is not a competition, but it deserves a lot of practice.

Instead of being discouraged by someone’s beautiful turn of phrase, I try to be energized about my own writing. Watching someone else do really well at something I love inspires me to hone my craft.

2. Don’t be discouraged by failures of your own.

I just felt several of the people reading this post roll their eyes.

“We get it,” some of you are undoubtedly thinking. “Get back on the horse! Don’t quit! Keep trying!” Yes, this advice is familiar and admittedly clichéd, but only because it is so important. This is one of the hardest things to master, and it’s something that I’m still working on myself.

Failure is important. It’s important to not let it discourage you from your writing, too. Writing is interesting because of the limitations in text-based communication. Written language strips away many layers of in-person communication that we may not even notice, like tone, body language, and inflection.

Sometimes we will fail to communicate what we intend, but those failures can teach us about how we and others think.

3. Don’t take constructive criticism as a personal insult.

I know the terror of handing someone a draft of a paper. Writing can feel like an extension of the self, and if a reader doesn’t like someone you wrote, their criticism can feel like a personal slight. Showing someone your writing for the first time feels like what I imagine leaving your baby with a new babysitter feels like. What if they feed it something weird? What curse words might they teach your impressionable child?

But your writing is not a baby, and receiving criticism isn’t a reflection of who you are as a person. Letting people tell you what went wrong — and what went right! — in your writing is an important part of improving as a writer and learning how to better express yourself to your audience. And, ultimately, that’s the point.

4. Don’t try to fit yourself into someone else’s mold.

This advice may seem like the vague and ubiquitous advice of “be yourself,” but this entry on the list is more about method than lofty ideals about style and personality (though, really, don’t try to be someone other than yourself).

What I mean by “Don’t try to fit yourself into someone else’s mold” is find what works for you as a writer and stick with it. I’ve been told countless “foolproof” methods for improving one’s writing, and everyone has a different idea of what is right. Some people insist on practicing the art of writing every day, without fail. They suggest picking a time and place to write each day, like a kind of book-based ritual.

But don’t invest in candles just yet. Still other writing gurus swear by the muse method: waiting for inspiration, whenever it may come.

What I get out of the two sides is that each writer needs to find what works for them. If I tried to make myself write every day in the same spot at 6 p.m. — or, worse, 6 a.m. — the only increased productivity I would have is in my Facebook and Twitter scrolling.

But for some, forcing the muse is the only way to get anything done. Whatever works for you is what you should pursue. Once you know how you work best, you’ll be able to make your best work.

Kim Carter is an English student at the University of Maine at Augusta with an expected graduation in December 2016. She is also involved in many other activities on campus including working as a representative in the Student Government, tutoring in the Writing Center, playing the guitar and singing at campus events, speaking at academic presentations, and giving campus tours.


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