Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Writing is Easy

Yeah, you heard me right.

I'm sick to death of hearing published authors carry on about how writing is a grueling task on a level with working in the coal mines.

Of course, your experience may differ.

But that's the whole point of this post, really--your experience may differ.

I think it's an important point to make, because novice writers are so quick to believe anything that an experienced writer says. I've been making my living primarily as a writer for about a dozen years. If I can get in a focused 5-6 hours of writing, I generally turn out about 5,000 words in a day, which may require light editing later.

Obviously, it's not like that for everyone--there are very successful writers who claim to hate the process of writing. Even Dorothy Parker said she didn't like writing, she liked "having written". I know writers for whom that's dead on. For me, I have no interest in "having written". The magic is all in the process for me...I lose interest in a work pretty quickly when it's done and only have eyes for the new blank page in front of me.

The single most important thing that a new or aspiring writer can know is that it's DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE.

  • If writing is a lot more work than you expected it to be, don't get discouraged--many very successful authors describe the writing process and arduous and even painful.
  • If writing flows out of your fingertips onto the page as if the words had just been waiting, already in order, to be released, don't assume you're a lightweight--many successful authors report that they feel like the words and stories "come from somewhere else".
  • If you rely on outlines, great--write an outline. Many authors depend heavily on them.
  • If you prefer to just sit down and write and see what happens, go for it. Regardless of what outline-dependent authors preach, you'll be in the company of several wildly successful authors--including Stephen King--if you opt to let your characters lead you.
  • If you like to edit each day's work at the end of the day, or first thing the next morning, and that works out for it. If it's more comfortable for you not to look back until you've reached the end...fine.
  • Some writers do well with a very disciplined schedule, and some "binge write". As long as you're producing quality work and meeting your deadlines, it's no one's business but your own whether you write for two hours every morning or for twenty straight hours on Saturday.
The bottom line is that virtually every piece of writing advice you hear from a published writer is based on what worked for that writer. You are not that writer. Your mileage may vary. There is a lot to be learned from successful writers, but only if you have the strength and confidence to take what works for you and leave the rest. If you're a free-form writer and that's always worked well for you, it's entirely possible that buying into someone's proclamation that you "can't write a coherent novel without an outline" is going to cripple your writing. If you're at your best in the early morning hours, the fact that some other writer has great success staying up all night writing shouldn't influence you.

Be the writer you are. That's the only "writing tip" that works for every writer.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

This is the comment I just posted. I just fixed a rather glaring spelling mistake. Sorry.

Great post.

I've found many painters fall into a similar trap. They try to copy someone's technique, and they either become stale or lose interest altogether.

lisa q. said...

fabulous post girl and dead on! just do what works for you!

Theresa111 said...

Well done! I adore how you continuously, throughout your whole article, encourage novice and everyday writers to follow their instincts by not relying heavily upon advise from the dramatic and negative writer.

I have always found them to appear as if they are the suffering artist who can bring about a work they have written, yet at the same time, discourage anyone else. It seems a bit selfish to me.

This is a big world and we have room for all types of writers. I wanted to compliment you on your artsy and unselfish way of putting things into perspective.

Please visit me if you have some free time to relax and read.

m38967 said...

hey: writing can be hard, or it can be easy, i guess it depends how much weight you put into what you think people are gonna perceive about ones writing.

on sk-rt, i agree with you, it is a neat new social engine, and i have actually found it fodder for some of the posts i do over at eco-blog, keetsa! they have good stuff over there at sk-rt. i want to add a sk-rt little button on the bottom of my posts. i wonder if they even have one? later, missy.

Julie said...

Great post. I've got two comments. First, one thing you allude to but don't say flat out is that whatever techniques you find work for you, you still need to put in the hours. I think that's what a lot of folks forget is that writing takes time and devotion.

My second comment is a tip someone mentioned to me once that has helped me tremendously as a writer -- particularly when I am writing something that I find arduous rather than something I am really enjoying writing: stop right in the middle of a good idea, jot down some notes about where you're headed, and leave it for the next day. Obviously, this isn't great if you're only a paragraph or two in, but if it happens after a full morning of writing, it can really help get you jumpstarted the next morning.

jude8753 said...

Just read your article and gave you a stumble. I also just signed up at sk-rt and look forward to trying my hand at writing...Thanks..Jude

Matt Keegan said...

Excellent points. I hear some writers grumbling on and on about their writing project which leads me to wonder why they write in the first place.

I, too, can write thousands of words in one sitting and lightly edit it later on. Once I am in the flow, I can write creatively even without an outline to work from.

Gretchen said...

This was exactly what I needed to hear. I get buried under what I think I should be doing ... and thereby produce nothing. It's completely depressing.

Thanks for the boost!

awannabe said...

My problem is I won't even call myself an author until I get published in the so-called "real world." I wonder if writing on the web counts, or if it is what a person
writes that makes them a writer or an author. That is why I call myself awannabe writer.

How many pages is 5,000 words? I used to be able to handwrite 25 pages a day, front and back. I was once gung ho on word counts, but now I focus more on quality.

Carey Sessoms said...

awannabe, I live by word count.:) I just wrote five articles today that absolutely had to be 200 - 230 words each. It's fun--like a game, really. I love writing. Good post.:)

clairec23 said...

I liked that piece - I always feel like a bit of a faker because I don't think of writing as a hard job. The act of writing is the easiest bit of the whole process. You start thinking, ok, it's not meant to be easy so I must be doing it wrong. That just gave me a midgen of hope :) I may not be a great writer but I can still enjoy it.