Sunday, May 22, 2011

When writing is like life

The one thing I've noticed about writing that relates very closely to real life is how there will always be a lot of people telling you what you should do. Sometimes what they say can be helpful. Other times, what they are really saying is 'this is what worked for me' or 'this is what I want out of life/writing' which may not be anything close to what you want or need.

Some advice is always helpful, especially if you are looking for specific help in some area. Sometimes it can even be a 'lightbulb' moment as you perceive something you never realized before. However, many times advice can be detrimental to your work if you aren't prepared to deal with it wisely.

If you hear from your favorite author that she always does X when writing, and you don't -- does that mean you need to change?

No. It might mean you need to try X and see if it works for you -- never be afraid to try something new -- but even if you adore the author and would love nothing more than to write like her, that doesn't mean you should, or can, follow what she does.

Your brain does not work like hers. Nor are the stories you write going to be what she would have written. You don't want them to be, no matter how much you love the material. You want to be true to your own muse, and tell your own stories, right?

Which brings me back again to advice. There is no more one true way to write than there is one true way to live. Your circumstances dictate what works best your you. Actively seeking to do better will help you improve. Trying to follow every bit of advice will leave you frustrated and your stories in shambles.

And this leads to something more to remember in writing (and life, for that matter). You only learn by doing. All the advice and books in the world will not make you a better writer. You have to sit down and write, learn what problems you face, and write better the next time.

Listen and learn from others, but listen wisely and learn what works and doesn't work for you.
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