You Have Choices about Your Writing

Because writing is a solitary activity, writers sometimes risk feeling guilty about writing–after all, they do it alone, which takes them away from friends and family.

I encourage you to rethink the guilt thing because if you don’t write, you’ll never get better at it and your readers will never benefit from your insights or your stories or your characters or whatever your strong writing point is.

  • Take action. As with most things in life, you need to actually do it to get better. You didn’t learn to ride a bike by watching someone else do it. You didn’t learn to make a grilled cheese sandwich by reading a cookbook. You had to actually get on a bike or turn on a stove. You probably fell off the bike or made one side of the sandwich too dark, but you learned and you got better. So it is with writing.
  • Accept your learning speed and style. Some people pick things up immediately, while others are more methodical in their learning. It doesn’t matter which way you learn, as long as you learn. Whenever I hear the term “writing competition,” I cringe. Why? Because writers ought not compete with each other. Every writer differs from every other writer. Instead of competing, writers are better served supporting each other. Writers are also better served supporting themselves rather than beating themselves up. Of course I encourage you to write your best and improve your skill, but you won’t do that until you accept your learning speed and style.
  • Know the writing rules, then use the ones that work for you. No, I haven’t lost my head. I just want to point out that you can get so hung up on rules that you lose your writing voice. For example, people don’t speak in standard English or in complete sentences. So give yourself permission to write dialogue the way people talk. Another rule says to write at the same time (or in the same place) every day. That’s hardly realistic since days differ, so give yourself permission to deviate from this rule if you need to. The important thing is that you write whenever possible. Think of the writing rule(s) that you let control you and your writing, then give yourself permission to bend the rule to your benefit. Can you work on more than one article at a time? If so, go ahead even if the rule says not to. (Did you notice I ended the sentence in a preposition?) If you write the ending first in your fiction, is it possible the characters deviate from your plan and you need a different ending? If so, write it. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m all for knowing the rules and applying them. But I’m also all for you making good choices regarding using them.

Bump these three points against your writing and see if you can make better choices for you and for your reader. Happy writing!



4 Responses to You Have Choices about Your Writing

  1. Great post. These days there are so many people trying to tell us how to write…what we must do and not do that it is all so overwhelming. Yes, what might work for one person’s novel may not work for another. This is not a paint by number process. And you’re so right that if we get hung up in the “rules’ we can lose our precious voice.

    • Thanks for your good comment, Carol. When I was in college, the professor in one of my writing classes told the class that morning people weren’t successful as writers. Night people had the edge on making it as a writer.

      I bought that for a while since she was the professor. But then I sent out my first query letter to Victoria magazine–and the editor bought my article. I sent out my first query letter to Woman’s World Weekly–and the editor bought it. I sold another first query to Mpls/St.Paul Magazine. I, a morning person, was doing quite well as a freelancer and it had nothing to do with the professor’s “successful writers are night people” rule. It had to do with studying the publication and figuring out what type of articles it published!

      Thanks for your comment.

      • Oh, my God! What a ridiculous thing to teach. I just listened to a neat podcast about creativity and writing with Mark Matousek. Here’s what he said: “Allow your voice to take you where it wants to go.”
        Too many rules can kill your creativity. Here’s something else he said: “Creativity begins where knowing ends.” Have a nice evening or morning 🙂

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