As a writer who has been pursuing her passion for quite a few years now, I thought it might be helpful to compile a little list of some pieces of advice for anyone who perhaps is just getting into the art. In truth, pretty much everything on this list is useful to writers who have been going at it for a long time, too. But if you are just getting started and planning to pursue writing seriously, then I hope you read on, and find some valuable lessons here.

1. Read.

This might seem a bit obvious, but I promise, you won't be sorry. Read the kind of things you want to write. If you want to write YA fantasy books, read YA fantasy books! Get familiar with the craft, and the different styles and voices of other writers. This will help you find your own voice, and will often give you some inspiration as well. This is especially helpful if you're not sure where to start. And not everything you read has to be books. Poetry, essays, six word stories--everything is valuable. I often find that I can take something very small, an image, or even a word or sound, from something I've read, and fly away with it. Inspiration can come at any time. And reading, though it may be turning into a lost art, is always a soul-enriching experience. If you're a writer, you know how powerful words are, and you should be consuming the words of others as often as you create your own.

2. Surround yourself with inspiring things.

I can't even tell you how much of my writing has been inspired by music. If you're just starting out, it's so important to give yourself a steady influx of inspiration. Different things work for different writers, so if you're like me, and know that music helps, then explore that. Make playlists, look up song lyrics, watch music videos and see where they take you. The previous point ties into this as well--reading the writing of others can also be very inspiring. Go for walks, look at some art, whatever you do, just keep your senses open. Inspiration can often come from surprising places. It's important to keep your options open in case you get into a slump, because then you'll have something to turn to that might make it easier to get started again. A machine produces nothing if it has no fuel. You are a creative machine.

3. Write as often as you can.

Notice how I didn't say, "write every day." If you have the discipline and time to write every day, then that's great! But not everyone can. We have school, jobs, and just the regular spontaneity of life to hold us back. But the one thing most writers forget to do is write. It can feel like the entire world is against us, trying to crush all those stories blossoming inside our hearts and minds. We can't let that happen. Your stories are valuable, let the truths in them break free and shine on the world. Be firm with yourself. Be insistent. But, above all, do what you can.

4. Try to schedule your time.

This goes along with what I've just said above. Even if you don't have every day free to write, try to create some kind of schedule with yourself. If you know you spend a large portion of the mornings just sitting around and doing nothing (guilty as charged), then make that your writing time. Set aside a place for yourself to do it. Bring out your inspiration and get to work. When you have a fairly haphazard span of time on your hands, it can feel like mountains always spring up in your path whenever you consider writing. The time has no structure to it, so it slips by too easily. That's why setting up a schedule for ourselves can help, because it puts those mountains on hold and says, "This time is for me and my stories. You can wait." Especially if you don't have a job that involves writing, and it's something you do in your free time, scheduling a portion of your day for it helps it feel like a job that should be taken seriously. And believe me, writing well is hard work, and it deserves your time.

5. Don't throw things away.

If you're just starting out, you may have a million ideas flying around in your head. Chances are, you might not get to all of them very quickly. But you should never get rid of them completely. There's a time and place for everything. Some of your stories might not need to be told just yet--but keep them somewhere safe for when that time comes. I have notes upon notes on my phone of little ideas, bits of dialogue that pop into my head minutes before I sleep, premises for novels, the skeleton for a character. Treasure these little things. Because sometime later in your writing life, when you inevitably find yourself lacking inspiration, you will have something to turn back to. You can look upon old ideas with new eyes, and some of them might be ready to take into the light and grow into something beautiful.

6. Don't give up.

This last one is the most important. It often feels as if the universe is always working against me, always throwing things at me to draw my attention away from creating, always trying to quiet the stories burning in my heart. But we can't let that happen. As I said before--your stories are valuable. It often helps me to think of the people out there who might need the messages in my stories, the people who are hungry for the bits of truth that I've planted in my worlds. Our stories can have an enormous sphere of influence, and we need to think about that as we set out to write. Our stories are meant for more people than just us. Have courage, and write.

So, to all my fellow writers, new and not-so-new, I say, don't give up. These suggestions are just a few tidbits from the mind of one girl. There is so much more for you to learn out there. Keep working. Keep looking forward. Your words can do great things, but first you have to set them free. First, you have to write them.