Does Writing Advice Work for You?

Jul 09, 2017

Do you hole up in near seclusion like Jonathan Franzen to create your opus? Do you use social media for ideas and encouragement? Do you read fiction while you write fiction? Where do you find your inspiration and your will to carry on in spite of the self-doubt? Do you search for answers in what other fiction writers do?

Ultimately, the only thing that matters is what works for you.

Writers all have their own special tics and tricks to get them going. What I discovered a while ago is that they're not very helpful to me. Connecting with other artists is great: workshops really work; editors are priceless; twitter shines a bright light into the dark recesses of writers' brains, and that is often cool. But this advice-taking can sometimes kill off the terrifyingly gimp baby that is our emerging work.

So, rather than worry about how others do it, I've embraced my own helter skelter way of producing material. When I write non-fiction, I'm a well-oiled machine that manically devours deadlines, goals, feedback, and research. The mandate drives me. For me, fiction is an entirely different story.

Over the years I've learned that there's immense value in all my apparently meaningless meandering. I read across genres, watch TV, go to the movies and galleries etc etc. Am I procrastinating? Maybe, if you judge by my total word count. But not really. It's a process, if perhaps a messy one; I'm gathering up critical supplies for my death-defying trek into the wilderness. I'm embarking on an insane quest, and without those supplies, I'd be lost.

Thoughts about fiction writing that you are welcome to ignore:

1) Setting a daily word count minimum is like self mortification for some of us. Don't we writers already suffer enough?

2) Watching TV counts as research. Studies say it does, so it must be true. Right?

3) Talking in detail about your novel does NOT count as work, and is typically not productive. 

4) For some, social media is an excellent way to drain all the creativity from your body. (A bit like leeching, which was supposed to help you but ended up killing you.)

5) Figuring out why you write is more important than how you write. Unless you are honest about your motivations, the journey can quickly become draining.

6) Hang on to the joy of discovery and effort that is part and parcel of the writing process. Once you've lost the joy, stop writing for a while.