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'Sweat Your Guts Out'
A blog containing some advice on writing from one young writer to others, by Naomi Toseland

Siegfried Sassoon once told Wilfred Owen to ‘sweat’ his ‘guts out writing’, if he wanted to be any good.  Sounds like incredibly painful advice, but Wilfred Owen is still a celebrated poet almost a century later, so it’s useful advice nonetheless. It is very easy with all the distractions around us (TV is my Achilles' heel) to forget completely that we’re writers and carry on floating apathetically through our lives.

For me, the hardest thing is starting. I never have any idea where I’m going to go with the piece I’m working on, and sometimes I abandon it altogether for an idea that came to me for something else while writing it. This can be incredibly annoying and counterproductive. Getting out a first draft, no matter how excruciating and riddled with mistakes, is the most important thing. You don’t even have to have a solid idea of where you’re taking it. Ideas will come to you whilst writing about any mundane subject, I assure you. Don’t be afraid to draw on your own experiences either, embellish them if you like (If you’re writing fiction). How can you expect to finish something great if you’ve never bothered starting anything?  Even if your first draft is terrible, there’s a certain satisfaction from having a complete piece of work and this will spur you on to improve it, if you care enough about writing. I hope you do. Otherwise why would you bother reading this?

Reading other people’s work is always a great jumping off point, see what others are doing, and how well that works. I sometimes have trouble doing this, whenever I read something good, I decide I could never write anything as well as that and shouldn’t bother. Don’t do that. Don’t sell yourself short. There is no harm in trying, and one day maybe aspiring young writers will look at your work and think that they’ll never amount to anything. Pep talk over.

I recently started a blog (under advice), to encourage myself to get writing about anything, I haven’t uploaded any serious work yet, and that’s fine. Since starting it I have had several ideas and am working on some of them. You don’t have to be incredibly high-brow either. I quite enjoy making jokes about bodily functions, and as long as I enjoy writing them and others enjoy reading them (or so they tell me) I will continue to. So if you want to write, about absolutely anything, don’t hold back.

Once you do have something you’re pleased with, don’t just sit back and enjoy the moment, promote yourself! I was made aware of this very recently, with so many social networking sites paraded in front of us all day every day, you may as well take advantage and plug your work. This may make you feel dirty at first, but you’ll get over it and you’ll notice a developing readership base. Sure it may just be your mom or your close friends at first but keep plugging away and eventually you’ll work will circulate more, and more people will see it.

The most important thing to remember is to write! Anything! Once you’ve finished one thing, celebrating is a good idea (I make myself a cup of tea because I’m such a party animal) but don’t leave it too long until you start your next writing project. Don’t let yourself get rusty, ‘Sweat your guts out’ (or something equally inspirational and less gross).

Naomi Toseland is a young writer based at Cardiff Metropolitan University.