Writing Advice is Bullshit, here’s why.

The other week I read an article written by a Daily Beast contributor that started with the title: If You Want to Write a Book, Write Everyday or Quit Now.  A clickbait title if I ever read one but okay, I’ll bite. I’m always game for new points of view, so I read it. Like a lot of writing advice it had good points, and questionable points, and I came out of reading the article with the realization that most writing advice should be taken with a grain of salt. Why?

A few reasons. Not the least of which is, writers (particularly of fiction) are really good at bullshit. It’s what we do. If there is one thing we understand very well, it is how to bullshit, and draw things out, and some of us, if we’re so inclined, can even make a simple one sentence concept into pages and pages of bullshit. Throughout high school and college, I was the envy of many when it came to essays because 500+ words is a cakewalk when 490 of them are basically rephrasing the topic at hand, and filling the rest with marshmallow level fluff.

There’s a certain poetry in our bullshit at times, I confess. Why write that the sky was dark when you can explain that the sky was a stormy slate grey, then proceed to wax poetic for a few paragraphs or so about Mississippi rainstorms in June. It may not necessarily tell the reader much about the plot, but it gives you a greater feel for the world, and the time in which the story takes place.

This is all well and good in fiction, but in writing advice it tends to be a little more blatant. As in the article above. The author specifically notes that writing everyday is metaphorical (except that it kind of isn’t?) and yet, he needn’t have bothered because it was pretty obvious that they were trying to make a dramatic point with the title.

I’m not opposed to the theory of writing everyday, necessarily. I think you should definitely write as much as possible, but these ‘rules’ that some authors try to lay down strike me as arbitrary and more often than not conflict with one another to the point you have to ask yourself, who’s right? Whose advice do I trust more?

Some say write everyday, some say a draft should only take 3 months, these are good notes, but I’ve had drafts take roughly 3 months and some take 5-6 (depending on how much time I can afford to dedicate to them). It doesn’t help that I don’t keep any kind of accurate track on how long something takes me from start to finish, so honestly it would be disingenuous of me to say I even knew how long the average book draft takes me.

I whole heartedly agree that writing must be taken seriously if it is something you want to do, seriously, but what I’ve come to learn after years of writing and years of reading advice and thought pieces on the subject of writing is, the best advice anyone can give you is to take advice with a grain of salt. Not everything is going to work for you, not everything makes sense for what you want to write. If you write romance, advice on how to write a mystery probably isn’t going to apply. Take what works, and what seems sensible, and then decide for yourself. Challenge your worldview, if you so wish, but don’t just accept a piece of advice as gospel simply because the person who wrote it is an author you admire or someone who claims to be an ‘expert’. Trust yourself, you know a lot more than you give yourself credit for. At the end of the day, all the advice in the world will never compare to taking action and starting your story, and getting to work. There’s no better learning experience than just doing it.

The Fine Line

There is a dangerously fine line between confidence and cockiness, but what is the line, and how do we avoid crossing it?
The thing to know is that confidence vs. cockiness is all about  perspective. A lot of people who are currently successful at the top of their fields, have admitted that even before they were successful they had an idea that they could be successful and/or would be successful. Had they articulated these ideas at the time, it would be easy to view that sort of thing as cockiness. Without the goods to back it up, some might have looked at even people we see as talented without question now, as just full of themselves. We’d tell ourselves, they’ll learn, they’ll get a swift dose of reality.
There’s a certain desire that exists in some, particularly in the art world– to tear down the confidence of others. While there are plenty of inspirational quotes about not looking to others to quantify your self worth, there are a lot of contradicting realities that are taught to us from a very young age. To know your self worth and to know you are talented is to be cocky and therefore, is considered a negative thing you don’t want to be.
To be vocal about this knowledge, and to be willing to share it can get you vilified, and you begin to learn rather quickly that being confident is not actually what people want you to be. Secretly they want you to need them for validation. If you aren’t validated by others, how can you possibly know you are talented, or beautiful, or intelligent?
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t bad to want validation from others either. But there’s a very real cycle of shame when it comes to validation, where, you aren’t supposed to know you’re talented and admit it, but then if you ask for validation rather than waiting for it to simply come to you, then you look desperate and needy. Another negative that we’re made to feel is wrong, putting us in a lose/lose situation in which either way we’re wrong.

In my conversation with Adrianne, the thing I really took out of all of this was that frankly it shouldn’t matter, there is nothing inherently wrong with being ‘cocky’. You really should be able to know your self worth and admit it.

Hitting Pause on the Blog

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One of the best pieces of advice I got in college was the KIS method of design. Keep it simple. Only, I didn’t fully realize what that meant until recently when I read an article on time management, in which it noted:

The basic principle of success is to focus. It is what makes the difference between those who are successful and those who are not, regardless of how much talent, resource, and energy that they have. – Thomas Oppong –

The Secret to Mastering Your Time is to Systematically Focus on Importance And Suppress Urgency

For a while now, and in particular the past year, I’ve spread myself incredibly thin on a variety of projects. But it all reached a head when, in April, I started creating content for YouTube, and simultaneously tried to blog daily. I was able to be successful at those two things, at the cost of me not writing anything for my novel for the better part of April.

In it’s earliest form, my blog was about furthering my platform, and largely that is still the point of all of the work I’ve been doing. But for me, my multitude of efforts to expand my platform has come at the cost of the very reason I need a platform in the first place. My novels. I tried desperately to balance everything. A full time day job, and my full time job as a writer. Blogging, podcasts, essays, shorts, vlogging. I convinced myself that if enough of these were spread far enough out that I could somehow, someway do them all.

Only, it didn’t work out that way. Perhaps if I had managed my time better I might have been able to make it all work out. But that’s the thing about it. Overworking myself, even with time management can only lead to one eventual outcome. Burnout, which will lead to a complete creative shutdown.

I can’t afford that.

I’ve had to make sacrifices and in the process I’ve decided where I think I should try and focus my efforts more.

I still love blogging.

I’ve done it for the better part of a decade now, and never in my life did I imagine that I would be writing this post, or even considering giving up blogging before I gave up anything else in my new creative endeavors.

This isn’t to say I’m never going to blog again.

I’d like to think that if a post strikes me to be written, I’ll put it out there. Maybe I can go back to the Monday, Wednesday, Friday system (not unlike how I do my vlogs) perhaps instead I’ll do Tuesday, Thurs, Sat so I always have new content somewhere. I haven’t decided yet.

For the time being at least, perhaps just through May, or perhaps a bit longer. I need to put things on pause.

Not writing at all for me is the worst possible scenario, and I would rather not do a lot of things than not write fiction.

The Drive

writeFor as long as I can remember, I have possessed a drive unlike that of perhaps anyone in my family. I have known (for instance) that I wanted to be an author, with little hesitation since I was ten years old, and I have thrown myself into it 120% ever since. This driving force is my greatest strength. I love what I do, and I’ve made it a point to push myself to work harder, do more, do everything I can think of to put myself out there. To build my platform, and help me get my work out there so I can be what I have always wanted to be. My dream for my future has in many ways changed greatly over the years as I get older and I realize what I definitely do want, and definitely don’t.

 

Lately however while I know what I want, doing it is often a lot more difficult than I would have otherwise thought. I’m contemplating a dozen different ways to up the amount of fiction writing I do in any given week (since I think it’s safe to say in the non-fiction category I write daily), I’m not the sort of person who can just force myself to write something if I’m not feeling it, and yet, maybe it’s time I give that more of an effort. Because honestly, even writing I’m not particularly fond of at the moment is still something.

Is it All Worth it?

writeRecently I’ve noticed a frustrating trend. I’ve worked diligently to ensure that I am posting daily blogs, and 3x weekly vlogs as well as bi-weekly podcasts and essays. I’m making it a point to utilize Twitter more and working to use Facebook more, and ultimately continuing work to grow my brand to its greatest potential. But this has come at a cost, in terms of my literary output. I spend so much of my time working on avenues to get my name out there and get my brand out there that I’m not actually doing the one thing that I desperately need to do to make all of this even worth the effort.

Write.

Mostly I am writing every day in the form of blog posts, or essays or ideas for things, but the novel writing, the part that is why I’m doing any of this has slowed considerably, and it makes me wonder, is platform building worth it, if it comes at the cost of me actually writing?

I feel like I’ve had this existential crisis before, but I still haven’t figured out the answer. I want to believe that I can have both in tandem with one another, building a platform while also continuing to write novels, but the evidence thus far is showing that less and less. The more I do one, the less I seem to do the other. Finding that balance has become increasingly tricky and I can’t help but wonder if something will fall by the wayside in the process.

Stumbling Blocks

 

If you don’t follow me on Twitter you probably (blessedly) missed a little breakdown I had earlier in the week. I was frustrated for having not been able to write anything, and I decided that the most logical of all possible decisions was to tweet about my frustration. I had considered blogging about it, or even vlogging, but as I note, you can’t complain about something that’s your decision to do right?

No one’s forcing me to vlog, or blog, or even do a podcast, I’m sure several would even prefer I didn’t on all accounts, but I enjoy doing them. Love it even, so it’s something that I want to continue doing. Still, my novel took a bit of a hit for the team, and it’s become something of a frustration for me all the same.

I created a schedule for myself of when I should work on certain projects which got off to a rocky start when some sort of allergy/almost cold took over last week and made it impossible to get much done.

It’s not like I’m not writing anything. Obviously. But the novel, the one thing I thought more than anything I would never have to worry about falling by the wayside has. I’ve managed since that Twitter rant, and actually almost immediately after to do some small amount of writing and frankly I’m happy for any bit I can get done.*

I’m hoping my upcoming vacation will prove helpful to me in the creation department and maybe having the better part of a full week off will really help me get ahead of myself a bit more; in the meantime I just need to get into my creative schedule and hope that this could possibly help.

Anyone have any other suggestions? I love hearing from fellow writers and any and all suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

*It’s worth noting and truthfully, I forget about it after the fact but I do have phases like this sporadically at least once a year, where I struggle to write and struggle to write, and then write like for six months straight… is that related? Maybe??

The Sounds of Creativity

I don’t know when exactly it started. The moment music no longer helped my creative endeavors and only served to slow me down, I think it was a gradual change that happened so slowly and without warning that by the time it took over it was already too late. Or maybe it was a sneak attack that I never even thought to try and look out for. One way or another, and seemingly inevitably I reached a point where the creative writing playlists I’d created on Spotify (and later Apple Music) were used less and less frequently, as the only sounds of creativity I could stand any longer were that of a light fan, some rain, and the tapping of my acrylic nails on my computer keys.

It’s been said that the background noises of a coffee shop can be very beneficial to creativity, and getting work done, and there’s a few websites that have been created for just the purpose of making you feel like you’re in a cafe. But somewhere that low hum of chatter, coffee creation, and light music never quite did it for me. I have never been able to successfully write anything in a coffeeshop, particularly any place really public, though I’ve tried on multiple occasions over the course of my life. I feel like the older I get the more I wrap myself up in this shell and just want to avoid the outside world while I’m creating. I can barely get any work done if my boyfriend/friends are under the same roof or in the same room. We talk, we watch tv, we do pretty much everything but work. If it weren’t for the fact that a podcast requires us to have a conversation I’m not sure I would ever be able to get that completed with anyone else around.

Is It Just Me?

A few years ago, I got to peak behind the curtain of one of my all time favorite authors in the BBC documentary A Year in the Life: J.K.Rowling edition. It was as she was finishing Deathly Hallows, it was a J.K.Rowling we had never really seen before, and I absolutely loved it. I remember there was this conversation in which she talked about some of the earlier Potter books and how rushed she felt, and how much she sometimes wishes she could change things.

Even though I’ve always known how the process works, and that it’s largely the same for every author, seeing that she went through the same struggles I did was oddly comforting. Somewhere in my mind I just pictured her (and really a lot of big authors) as being ones who just wrote things perfectly and never doubted a thing they wrote. Did they ever question their ideas or their thoughts? Was there ever a doubt about where things were going or what people might question?

Of course I know logically, that I’m not the only author who has ever second-guessed this or that, and I know that I’m certainly not the only one who reads what they have written and thinks, well that’s not right. Yet as a reader I can’t imagine what she would have done ‘better’ or different.

Creative Idea Bouncing

Over the weekend one of my good friends from High School, Kat, came over. We got to catching up on our lives, what we’d been up to over the last few months since we’d last seen one another, and invariably the conversation turned to our writing endeavors and how things were going with that. As with most conversations about creativity we also talked about how our stories were going, and I learned that when it comes to world building, she gets seriously involved. Whereas I fly by the seat of my pants and only know as much about the world of my current work in progress because I’ve been writing it for 13 some odd years, she created an intricate world in the span of two days, which I greatly admire and low-key envy.

As also often happens when it comes to conversations regarding creativity, we bounced some ideas off of one another, and suddenly I found a new found excitement to get to writing the sequel to my work in progress that I’d otherwise been lacking. Just thinking about this story and everything that I’d like to do, really has me eager to get to work as quickly as possible. I had written a little bit earlier in the day with questionable results, but after my conversation with my friend, I suddenly had a new found desire to write again. I’m still trying to master the art of, not caring how the writing starts (which is to say not editing myself before it’s time), but it’s definitely a struggle for me, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to turn it off so much as just try to silence it.

Lessons in Multi-Tasking

A few weeks ago, I attempted a multi-tasking feat which I dubbed Design with Me a vlog in which I would finish up the graphic design work on my website -–that was still in progress at the time—and make a vlog at the same time, in the vein of ‘Get Ready With Me’ style videos. A way in which to kill two birds with one stone with good old multi-tasking. I didn’t need much active thought to make design choices, but attempting to formulate my thoughts as I did so, proved immediately difficult, and ultimately I ended up not speaking as I worked to finish the designs, proving that this particular idea was not as brilliant as I’d otherwise hoped.

This doesn’t necessarily mean multi-tasking is impossible, but there’s something to be said for the conversation around whether or not multi-tasking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. We want to believe we can successfully do multiple things at once. It’s important to us to believe that multi-tasking is possible, because it means that we can be extra productive in our lives, and really isn’t that what life is all about? How productive we are? As someone who constantly feels like there isn’t enough hours in the day in which to complete various tasks and projects, and who is working to follow a schedule for creating, in order to help with the struggle of ‘writer’s block’ there’s a certain desire to make multi-tasking work for me. There’s a deep seeded necessity to utilize and multiply the time that I have with multi-tasking. The problem is, for the most part it doesn’t really work that way. There’s a big difference between listening to YouTube while you put on makeup or do homework, and trying to write something while you hold a conversation, watch tv, and text your friend. Inevitably things get pushed to the back burner. You’ll say a thought for the story or type what you’re talking about into the story/blog. One thing will take precedent as much as you don’t want it too. Distractions abound, there have been many instances where I’ve been attempting to write something or work on something while having a conversation with another person and inevitably, the conversation will take over and I’ll end up behind from where I otherwise would have been.

Perhaps this is just my problem, but what I’m learning about multi-tasking these days is, it isn’t as easy as it seems, and sometimes devoting your full attention to a task is better than trying to do too many things at once.  What about you? Is there something to be said for multi-tasking or is it not what it claims to be?