Imagine If Yoda Were Your Writing Coach...

by : Suzanne Harrison

Writers live a solitary life. That’s a fact. You spend hours planning, writing, rewriting and editing your masterpieces, only to have them rejected by every agent or publisher you have the courage to show them to.

So wouldn’t it be fabulous to have an on-call writing mentor, a wise and experienced coach to guide you through your writer’s journey?

Well, you have! Here, captured in the timeless wisdom of one of the greatest mentors in storytelling history, the great Jedi Master, Yoda, are 10 simple tips guaranteed to transform you into a Jedi Knight of the Write!

“You must unlearn what you have learned."

When commencing anything new, you need to arrive at the front door with an open mind and your judgment suspended. Most importantly, leave any old training and ingrained ideas about the topic you are learning, well and truly outside that door. Writing is absolutely no exception to this rule. I have found it much easier to teach complete novices, and those with open minds, than trained journalists or graduates of writing courses, especially when it comes to the basics of freeing the imagination for fiction. For those of you who think you need to write it perfectly the first time – unlearn that! For those of you who think you write with the logical, left side of your brain – unlearn that! For those of you who think that only a gifted few can write well – unlearn that! And for those of you who think you can only write when touched by the muses – unlearn that! If you can think and speak, then you can write. Period. No other prerequisites required.

“(What’s in there?) Only what you take with you."

The world of fiction is the world of your experiences mixed with your imagination. As you venture into this world to retrieve the images, feelings, impressions and ideas in the way that is truly unique to you, you do indeed learn that the only things you can encounter there are the things that you take in with you. No one else on the planet, or in history for that matter, is where you are now, has been through what you’ve been through or has your own unique view of the world. Honour these views and experiences. Allow them to flow freely through your pen or fingers. It is only when you write truly that others will relate to your words. Readers can spot a fake a mile away.

“Try not, do or do not, there is no try."

This may come as a surprise but you must never try to write well, or you will never write well. Don’t try, just do. In other words, capture first thoughts, keep the pen moving, let yourself write complete garbage. Just do it. Just write. It is only by sitting down every day and writing that one becomes a writer.

“A Jedi’s strength flows from the Force."

Substitute the “Force" with the “Unconscious" or the “Imagination", and you’ll have a better idea of what this Yoda-ism means. As a writer, your strength flows from your own unconscious, as this is where all your collective experiences, impressions and memories are buried, just waiting to be exhumed as challenges for your characters. The ability to exercise these creative muscles, keeping them strong and toned, is the fuel that will power your stories.

“There is no why."

One of the greatest leaps you can make in your writing, and indeed in your life, is the ability to stop asking why! Do not seek the reason for anything you write. Do not seek the reason behind the images you see, the voices you hear, the impressions you get, the dialogue you write. It just is. And it is, because it’s you, and only you, who can write that at this time. As soon as you stop to ask why, you drop into an analytical frame of mind, and genius is lost. Creativity is stifled. Imagination cannot function. Let the critics ask why. That’s their job. Your only answer to the question of why? need be “because it was there."

“You must complete the training."

When it comes to writing, or any other art form, talent or genius actually count for very little. Writing is a craft, and like any other craft, the writer needs to work at it constantly, honing his skills and refining his technique. Study your craft, learn from many teachers, add to your skill set, it will make you a much better writer. And it was Michael Jordan who said, “the harder I trained, the luckier I became". Keep studying. Always be in training. As a writer you are like an athlete. Footballer players don’t hang out at home all week, or spend their days surfing or playing golf. They train, they practice, they work out at the gym, and it is this that gives them the strength, skill and finesse to win games on the field. You are no different.

“Only different in your mind."

Life is lived in the human mind. The advances in quantum physics have proven that the universe arose from thought, and that we can influence anything in our lives simply by the thought we put to it. The same goes for your writing. If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right. If you think you can sell more books that JK Rowling, then you’ve got a much greater chance than someone who thinks they can’t. Anything is achievable for you as a writer, as long as you put the thought to it that you can and will succeed.

“Control. You must learn control."

One of the most frustrating elements of being a writer is finding the time to write. If you hold down a full time job, run a business, or have a family to care for and an active social life, it can be tempting to say “I’ll write that novel next year/when the kids are grown/when I retire" etc. This is where self control is imperative to the success of your creative endeavours. You only need to write one scene a day, which can take as little as 20 minutes, and in a year you will have 365 scenes, which will be the best part of the first draft of a novel. Don’t wait. Learn to control your inner voice that says, “You can’t do it", or “Don’t be so selfish", or “The bathroom is dirty, go clean it". Sit down and write every day. It’s the greatest gift you can give yourself.

“Nothing more will I teach you today."

Take your writing lessons, and your writing sessions, in bite-sized pieces. When you are learning new writing techniques, take the lessons at a pace that keeps you stimulated, but not overwhelmed. Taking on too many new ideas or concepts at once can tend to muddy the creative and productive waters. It is best to learn a new technique, then practice it and integrate it before moving onto the next one.

“Pass on what you have learned."

As you travel the writing path, take the time to teach others that which you have learned. Even if it’s only a simple word of encouragement or a tip that helped you when you were just starting out, keeping the flow of information alive is the greatest gift you can give to others. Pass on what you have learned.

So, as you can see, anytime you need him, Yoda will be there to help you through. And remember, the only failure is stopping, so keep on writing!