Write what you know. Write every day. Write for yourself. Change this. Learn that… Then do it all over again. A few times. This is the glamorous world of writing at its’ core. All the learning is on-going. It never really lets up if you are a writer who respects and understands craft–and yes, despite the shoddy way it is often treated, writing IS considered to be a craft, or an art.
There are endless ways to address writing, some that give it an air of mystery, or glamorize what is often a very lonely and personal process for most of us. You’ll see phrases like “show, don’t tell” a lot. References made to a writer’s “voice” – like it’s something Divine or magical. Some banter about monikers like “natural writer” because the stories come as easily as drawing breath – while others struggle to dredge up one solid idea that can be hammered into a story plot.
But, what does any of it really mean? I have collected about a thousand dollars worth of writing guides over the past two years – 50/50 split between paper and eBooks. A few nights ago I forced myself NOT to buy yet another guide, despite the high recommendation it was given. Why? Well, I’ve come to the sad but real conclusion that all this study has not only slowed my writing process, it’s pretty much strangled my voice and joy of creating stories. It’s ironic in one sense because years ago I used to get asked a lot if I had studied creative writing, or gone to school to learn to write. No on both counts – I told many people that sitting in on one “writing course” class was all it took to convince me that being told how to construct sentences and what “rules” should always be observed was the quickest way to silence the stories before they ever stirred to life.
Good editors and writers all know that the only honest and real rule is there are no rules so etched in stone that they can’t be broken or ignored entirely. Writing is like the flow of a river, shifting, rushing, always moving forward to a destination. Rules are like dams – they slow the progress, but they can’t really stop the inevitable burst that will open the floodgates, figuratively speaking, of course.
I like good editors, they teach and draw out your inner visions, sometimes showing you things you didn’t see yourself in the rush of white-water rafting that was your first draft creation. LISTEN to those editors, they care about your story. There’s more to editing than typos, grammar, and rearranging words. Editors who chop out blocks of your text, and expect to be the final word on your story are honestly full of shit for the most part and should be avoided. The story is yours – work with a builder, not a wrecking ball.
Tons of advice out there. You can read and learn forever – which means you’ll never write that book. If you don’t draw the line and just do the writing, you can’t really call yourself a writer. Writer-in-waiting maybe, but you’re the only one who’ll know that.
So, break a few rules, make a few rules, bend a few rules. Do whatever works for you. Don’t write what you know, write what you feel – what pushes and inspires you. Toss your baby out of the nest and into the world. Then – start all over again! That’s the only way to do this gig.
Good luck, and happy writing!!