Last week I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about writing myths I used to believe in. As any self respecting procrastinator knows, one of the best ways to avoid writing is to read about writing. I love reading books by writers, books for writers, articles about writing, quotes about the writing life. Sometimes I find it very inspiring.
Other times it crushes my dreams. Because oftentimes reading about what has worked for other writers gives me false notions and expectations about what it means—and what it takes—to be a “real” writer. Real writers wake up at 4 a.m. and write for three hours in the dark. Real writers outline the entire story before they begin. No! Real writers should let the story unfold organically. Real writers focus on characters instead of plot. They churn out 5,000 words a day and write a novel every month, oh and also they gave a million dollars away to charity and are probably a better person than me, a “fake” writer.
People of the internet: I literally write for a living and I still find myself buying into this nonsense. It’s what kept me from finishing a novel for years. I felt like I was doing it wrong.
There’s one surefire way I’ve found to silence the “I’m not a real writer” voice in my head: accepting my process.
I outline as I go.
My writing is terrible until the third draft.
I write short.
I write best in the evenings and waking up early is something I will never willingly do
I write fast and bad. I revise slowly and thoroughly.
I use brainstorming and “research” as ways to avoid writing.
None of this is universal. It doesn’t all match up with what I’ve been told “real” writers do. That’s okay. It works for me.
I was avoiding writing by listening to the First Draft podcast the other day (10/10 would recommend) and Veronica Roth said something like “The only right way to write a book is the way that allows you to write a book.”
The things that help someone else write a book (or poem or screenplay or whatever) may not be the things that help you write a book. Writing is personal. We should not expect writing advice to be one size fits all. Accept what works for you and toss the rest.
When I gave myself freedom to write terribly, to go dark, to stop pretending I could form coherent sentences in the morning and to stop wasting time on outlines that would never go anywhere, I was finally able to finish a book.
Other writers probably love waking up early to get their word count in and find true inspiration from Pinterest and research. That is awesome. For them. These are not helpful tools for my writing process, but just because their process is different from mine doesn’t make it any less real. The only “wrong” writing process is the one that keeps you from getting words on the page.
What about you? Have you broken free of writing advice you used to think was gospel? What faulty advice is keeping you from finishing your work?
And, as always, the best way to keep up with me is to sign up for my weekly newsletter.
And, also as always, here is a Lord of the Rings meme because what else am I going to do with my time?