Before I get into the meat of the blog post, I just have to squee a little regarding my most recent book purchase: Eyewitness Companions Architecture, an entry in the series from the Dorling Kindersley publishing company who, I am guessing, have realized the insane popularity of their children’s guide books because now they seem to be publishing reams of adult-level guide books covering all sorts of topics. I have most of the big ones, like their Human, Animal, Plant, Earth, Universe, Battle and Weapon, and now I’m discovering smaller books running the gamut from Gemstones to Religion. Love ‘em. They are walking idea encyclopedias; you can’t turn a page and not get a spark. And, bonus, no more hunting for the word to describe what you can visualize in your mind but cannot verbalize to save your life. This architecture book will help so much in one WTBIP (Work To Be In Progress) that is a novel or two down the line.
Anyways, what I’m writing about is this blog entry, Ignore Anyone Who Tells You To Write, Write, Write.
Essentially, he feels like the blanket advice of write, write, write can be unhelpful, if not downright detrimental. That just ploughing through all problems, whether they be life or fictional, is the only solution. That writers do a lot more than just typing out words. It takes planning, reassessment, and sometimes life does get in the way. (See the bleeding analogy.) Above all, the writer must find their own path through the wilderness, must find what works for them, and damn any advice that tells them It Must Be This Way.
Which, fair enough. There is never a single way to turn this crazy, weird, impossible thing we all try to do into a crazy, weird and possible thing. But I think he’s missing the intended audience for this writing mantra. It’s not for working writers. Working writers already know their moods, know their strengths and limits, and have committed to making the impossible possible on whatever schedule they have deemed appropriate. They are already writing. They are already on their path.
The advice is for people who haven’t yet started the journey, who look at writing with the same awe and reverence as the medieval man might regard alchemy — full of dangerous and unknowable potential. They wish, they dream, they languish, instead of writing. They haven’t yet learned the chemistry of writing, that it is more sweat than magic, that there are patterns and reason behind it all, not magic and faith.
But this fundamental understanding can only be gained by writing. Lots.
When you can look at all the pieces of writing with an analytical mind, when you love it without revering (and fearing) it, then the advice to write, write, write may not apply like it once did. And that’s okay. Every writer writes their fiction in their own way. The advice (and the skills) that they need at the beginning of their journey will be different than what they need in the middle or at the end/apex of their career.
As one of these newbies who needed this advice, I can’t tell you how many times I read it (books, magazines, websites) before I actually took it seriously. In fact, the suggestions he offers for when you are stuck are exactly the same things I used to do — writing something else, planning and planning, waiting for inspiration — were what let me avoid the actual hard work of writing without me feeling bad about it. Not that they aren’t part of the process, but they cannot replace what you learn from doing. I don’t mystify the process any more, and that’s been huge for me.
I am far from being on the path yet, far from being what I consider a working writer (still too many kinks in the machine that need working out), but I can guarantee that any personal progress I have made has come from that old straw of write, write, write.
And that’s who the advice is for — the ones who haven’t yet looked behind the wizard’s curtain to see themselves standing there, fiddling with the levers.