Alternative Viewpoints: Is Writing Advice for the Birds?

This week’s first post is lifted in its entirety (with permission, obviously) from a lovely authoress I hope will eventually become one of our flock (eheh, sheep jokes just write themselves) of writers for By Passion Shorn, Rhozwyn Darius.

NOTE: This blog will sometimes have adult language. Readers can count on my being blunt. The writing here is casual in the sense that I will write much the way I speak. It may or may not be perfectly grammatical. I make no apologies. Also, I use the ban-hammer. I might warn you before I drop the hammer; I might not.
Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say to my face in my living room. Don’t be shitty. Be kind instead. It uses less energy and is better for everyone.

Writing is obviously a pretty solitary pursuit. As an introvert, by and large, this makes me happy. But it means that I have spent a ton of time in the past looking for advice on writing. I’m not alone. Most writers I know spend at least a little time searching out there in the wide Universe, looking for the one true path to productive creativity.

For sure, there’s plenty of writing advice on the ‘net. The National Novel Writing Month people have built and continues to build a wonderful and supportive online community. Chuck Wendig is a no-nonsense, no bullshit source for common sense writing advice. I like Kris Rusch and her husband Dean Smith for a different and contextual take both on fiction writing and on the business of writing fiction. People throw up memes on Pinterest and Facebook all the time with advice for writers from other writers both contemporary and historical. It’s actually hard to escape other people’s writing advice now that I’ve gone looking for it.

My experience, however, is that about half (or more) of it is non-applicable to me.

Whenever I take the advice of some other more experienced writer too much to heart, I almost always fail–sometimes epically. Writer’s write. If I don’t write then I’m not a writer. The bottom line is that I write more when I ‘meta’ my own process.

Writing is an internal process. Spinning something viable out of your guts pretty naturally means your insides and your baggage will be all over your art whatever it is, in subtle and not so subtle ways. There is no external advice that is going to be universally applicable to such a messy business. When I pay attention to what works for me and drop the “how I should write according to X” off the proverbial cliff, the whole thing goes better and I’m more productive. Figuring that out made my life much easier.

Note that I’m not applying this to the business of writing fiction. That’s a whole other topic. However, for me, these individual internal rules apply to literally everything that involves the methodology of the craft and art of writing–plot, character development, sentence and paragraph and scene and chapter construction, even writing software. Pick your poison! Some advice is helpful but much is not. Sorting it all out takes some time and attention.

This includes getting my butt into the chair to write at all.

In fact, that’s my best example. Most advice I find on the net involves the regular application of the butt to the chair and the fingers to the keyboard. I’m not arguing against that truth. Writers gotta’ write. But such advice usually includes a heavily weighted rider something along the lines of “And Write Every Day Forever And Ever, Amen”.

The year I tried to write every day was the least productive year I’ve had since I got serious about this joy ride. Instead, I learned that I hyper-focus. If I want to write a book in a timely fashion I need to set it up first (and the way I do that is very much my way!). Then I need to write the original draft all at once over the course of four to six weeks. If I don’t, I stumble and start to over-think everything on the page. Those projects take me years to finish. I believe that I lose my train of thought and it takes me much longer to get it back than it would have just to finish the damned draft in one fell swoop. Because I’m stubborn, I do manage to finish those projects. It’s just much more difficult to get even that one draft done.
If you write, don’t write my way. If you write, figure out the way that works for you–even if it’s “write every day”. 🙂
“Know Thyself” is an old but still relevant aphorism. But the only way it works for me is to also “Pay Attention”. External advice has value. I just find that my value for it is limited.

Cool, eh?
Check back later in the week so you can watch me natter on about writing a giant serial and whatever else I manage to come up with…

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