I was talking with someone the other day about how I see myself as someone who serves writers and about what my “brand” of service is, and I realized something. The most fundamental thing I know about writers is this:
No writer is the same as any other writer, and thus, no writing advice is going to fit every writer.
I believe this with everything in me and it factors into everything I write about writing here on this blog and in my books. I loathe one-size-fits-all writing advice, and to be honest, I struggle with holding grace for those who dispense it. Sure, it’s easier to say “a real writer write every day” or “anyone who wants to write can always find the time” than it is to say, “Write when you can, as often as you can” or “Sometimes, we don’t have the time to write” because finite directions and specific strategies or processes are more palatable. In short, they “sell” because from time to time, I think most of us want an easy answer, a quick tip that’s going to make this whole writing life a great deal simpler and more successful, in whatever way we define success.
The Truth about Writing as I See It
If I had to boil my philosophy of writing down to five tips, they would go as such:
- No writing schedule works for everyone all the time, and most of the time, it only works for some of us some of the time. We have to continually adjust.
- No writing practice – candles, reading, writing by hand, typing into Scrivener or Word or a dictation machine, etc – works for every writer. In fact, for a lot of us different practices work for each of us at different times and in different situations.
- No writing process – planning or pantsing or anything on the spectrum of those practices – works for every writer all the time, and different types of writing may call for different processes.
- No way of marketing writing – social media or ads or word of mouth or speaking engagements or telling the children you love to be cute and tell people about your work – works for everyone at every time.
- Every writer needs to explore who they are so that they can find what does work for them at any given moment in their individual life.
Are there best practices? Of course. Are there tendencies that trip most of us up from time to time? Absolutely. (I’m looking at you, Facebook.) But rules and regulations about writing often become strictures, guilt-inducers, and total shut-downs when they are prescribed as “THE RIGHT AND ONLY WAY.” (I’m saying that in my best Sauron-like voice, if you must know . . . “one ring to rule them all.”)
If Not Rules, Then What?
OH, I so wish there was this list of 25 things you could do as a writer that would make your writing flow, your work sell, and your heart feel good, but alas . . . here’s what I do know – that last one, the heart one, the one where your writing feels affirming to you and how you see the world – that’s the one that we need to focus on first. Always. (Maybe that’s the one hard and fast rule.)
Writing is a work of craft and a work of art. (I heard David Gaughran say that in his amazing Irish accent on The Bestseller Experiement recently, and it rang like a bell for me.) As such, it requires a lot of out of us as creators – imagination, perseverance, adjustment, vulnerability, honesty – and those characteristics, which are fundamental, come alive when we feel good about what we are doing and how we are doing it.
Here, then, are the things I ask myself when I want to remember about my work as a writer:
- What makes me happy about what I do?
- When and where do I feel best when I write?
- What sort of regularity do I need in terms of writing to stay in a rhythm of momentum and creation?
- What feels authentic and sincere to me in terms of marketing my work?
- What practices, beliefs, or attitudes stifle my creativity and make writing harder?
When I regularly check in with myself about these things, I find I’m not only more productive in my work but I also feel good about it. The guilt about “I should be” goes away, and I find I love what I do again. I do have to check-in often though because it’s so easy for me to lose my way.
So, friends, be the writer you were designed to be. Figure out who that is – and it does take some figuring, believe me – and then be you. It’s as simple and as immensely complex as that.
If you’re interested in exploring who you are as a writer, I have a short book called Discover Your Writing Self out in the world. You can find out more about it and get the links to pick up your copy here.