Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lessons Learned: Take One

Talking to a friend the other day, a startling realization bonked me right on the nose.

I am not the only one who has felt
they were doing this thing called writing wrong.

There is a bit of mystic surrounding the art of writing. Editors, literary agents, and professional writers make it appear not only easy, but as if there was a formula to writing the perfect novel.  Not to mention, the countless books out there declaring they can teach you how to write a bestseller by means of charting your rise in tension, plotting out your pacing, developing your characters, and setting the perfect scene, just add in a dash of witty dialogue and you're sure to be a hit.

Oh, yeah, of course.  Now that you've pointed that out, I am sure to succeed. [insert headdesk]

And while you can gain an overwhelming amount of insight from these books, there really is nothing that will help you more than simply reading and writing. In fact, if you were to believe the words of my favorite English professor you might give some thought to tossing all those self-help books aside. His belief-- you are either a writer or you aren't. It cannot be taught or forced. It either is or it isn't. fin.

In summation:
There's no big secret to writing.
You just do it.

This line of thinking was something of a revelation for me. It freed me from all my prior worries. See, the stories in my head, they are mine and I get to decide how to transfer them onto paper.

If that means writing is a mad dash of inspiration that consumes a person like a raging wildfire, so be it. Or a writer can choose to plot things out meticulously, keeping notebooks filled with character traits and post-it notes filled with last minute thoughts and details. And if none of this appeals to a writer, they are free to find their own way, their own style. The sky is the limit.

I'm not saying we can't learn from professional writers, literary agents, editors, publishers, bloggers, creative writing classes, conferences, and books on writing. In fact, I think it is incredibly important to strengthen your skillz of a writer by soak up all the information and knowledge from others that you can. I haunt multiple blogs on writing, plus pick up books on writing all the time from the library. I believe one of the best things I ever did for my writing was work toward the associates I earned last fall.

What I am say is writing is personal. It's a passion, an itch that must be scratched, and how you go about scratching it is completely up to you. Don't worry about doing it the right or wrong way, realize the only way that matters is your way and hone your skills by reading and writing daily.

The goal must remain pure and simple -- to write. Not to become a bestselling author and by extension become rich and famous, but to write for fun, for the love of it, for yourself. You owe it to yourself to get the stories in your brain-brain out. Worry about all the rest of the mumbo-jumbo afterward. And leave all the worrying about writing a bestseller to the pros. There is something freeing and incredibly wonderful about being an amateur.

I think Jeff Herman in his book Guide to Book, Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents 2011 sums it up best:
"Not knowing that there's a lot you don't know is empowering. Being ignorant won't hold you back from entering the contest but feeling ignorant can be paralyzing. Many people achieve the biggest strides, and experience the greatest satisfaction of their lives, when engaged in something completely new. Ignorance is an opportunity for innovation, because you haven't been corrupted with a litany of dissuasion about what "can't be done," or how it "must be done." You're a clean vessel with the power to recreate reality."
 He goes on further to say:
"Whatever happens to you belongs to you."
I really like the sound of that.
How about you?


  1. I couldn't agree more. Writing can be such an intimidating thing to the point where you sometimes feel paralyzed and are scared to continue. Sometimes you just need to let that intimidation go and roll with the flow. My chit chats with you have taught me that, which I couldn't thank you enough for. ;)

    And I do believe Mr. Herman speaks a serious truth within that quote. Starting off with a clean slate means you get to learn as you go. You get to find out which style of writing is most comfortable for you, because every author and the way they write are always different.

    1. When I read the quote it was light a light blub when off in my head. Truth be told, it is exactly how I've always felt.

      And our chit-chats always make my heart happy.

  2. Very nice summation! I've used a combination of education, experience, reading, reading books on writing, and then just plain old writing, and a lot of it, to get to a point where I feel way more confident with what I'm doing than when I first left college with my shiny degree in writing.

    1. So, let me get this straight, what you are saying is that once I am actually holding my degree in my hands my confidence level will not sky rocket? See, that's sorta a deal breaker as I was banking on a ego boost. ;)

      Annnnyway, lame wit aside, thanks so much for the comment! And I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

  3. You know what really helped me with writing was analyzing other people's work. I took a film/lit class and week after week, we dove deep into the minds of many great filmmakers and authors. I thought it was so tedious at the time, but found it has helped me tremendously. I see things differently now on a more detailed level and notice different styles of writing. So to back your claims, yes, simply reading helps you write. I do think Stephen King also said this too!

    1. When I first started working toward the Creative Writing degree I was shocked to find that a vast majority of the classes were "reading" classes vs. "writing" classes. In the end, I completely understand now! All that reading (including intro to poetry, which a poet I am not) was beyond beneficial to my skillz of a writer. It is extremely tedious, but so worth it. The writing fiction class I took was all about critiquing each other and giving feed back. Again, more reading and analyzing than actual writing. You have to know what's out there, what works, what doesn't, what you like, what you can do without, what inspires you. All this makes me wanna pick up a book right NOW.

      And you are correct, my friend, I think King says it multiple times in his book On Writing, which I have read over and over again.

  4. Isn't that the truth?

    Writing should be easy.

    Writing is just too dang hard.

    Which way is right?

    Am I doing it wrong?

    Then you read a book and think: I can do this! This sounds like it was written by monkeys!!

    And then when you try: I can't do this! A monkey could do a better job than me!

    What I found to be the most TRUE when writing was the SIMPSON's Episode: THE BOOK JOB.

    I couldn't stop laughing because it was all too true ;)

    1. First: Greta, my love, you always make me laugh out loud!

      Secondly: Sometimes I wonder if its really the writing that's hard or if it's us getting in the way that is making it so hard. I find when I just let go, forget about everything around me, the words pour out of me, yet when I'm over analyzing things and stressing about what others will think or if I'm doing it all wrong, that's when writing becomes a chore. And I despise chores, my laundry room is proof.

      Thirdly: There is no monkey (or person for that matter) who can write like you, Greta. You are one in a million, in a most excellent way.

  5. In the words of Lisa Simpson, "Writing is hard!"


    I have some major deep anxiety issues that make it even doubly hard for me to let go. I always have to think what needs to happen next.

    I remember in my 4th grade teacher/parent meeting that Mrs. Epperson told my Mom that I have to sit there and think about every little question before I answer it on a test.

    When I was writing "Ryder" I had to take 2 weeks off just to make an extensive outline because I had to have a plan. LMAO! I've shown it to a couple people and they all think that I went a little over-board. But that's the way us ferrets function.

    OH! But for the latest thing I'm working on.... I did take a contemporary chick book from the library, try to outline it's pages, and dissect it and then had to throw it all away because I found out there was no formula. Seriously, that drove me insane lolz!


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