Figure Out What Works By Elizabeth Mitchell

During the break between Rounds Three and Four, I read a couple of thoughtful  explorations concerning the plethora of confusing writing advice out there. Claire Legrand wrote this post, and our own fearless leader, Kait Nolan, responded and expanded here.

If you’ve been around the writing blog circuit at all lately, you know what they are talking about: the constant stream of “write each day. . . don’t write every day . . . plot everything before you start . . . don’t even outline because it ruins the freshness of creativity . . .  you must write at least 3 books a year . . . how fast you write doesn’t matter, but how well you write does.”

As Claire and Kait point out in their posts, none of this advice is a magic bullet. It does not matter if you are a pantser, a plotter, or a puzzler (a nod toRuth Nestvold for that handy appellation). It does not matter if you write every day or only every weekend. It does not matter if you write 250 words at a go, or 8K.

What does matter? Having goals, figuring out your own way of reaching them, and transforming those ways into habits.

To quote Kait again, this time from her opening post for this Round, accept failing small.  Accept that the habit won’t stick the first day out of the gate and be okay with that. In other words, get out of your own way.

If you’re new to ROW80, let me introduce myself.  I used to have a black belt in getting in my own way–if I wasn’t perfect, I was a failure. Not surprisingly,  I found a lot of things that don’t work for me, until I started listening to myself instead of every other writer on the planet.  I’m still finding what works for me and making habits out of those discoveries. But what I have found is the desire to  get out of my own way.

If you march to a different drummer, whether it be writing 250 words every day of the year, or writing 20k one day out of every thirty, embrace it, sing with it, soar with it.

The beauty of ROW80 is that it is “the writing challenge that knows you have a life.”  I’d like to add, “and your own way of writing.”

~*~

Elizabeth Mitchell

19 comments

  1. You knocked this one out of the park, Elizabeth! This is such a thoughtful, inspirational post; “get out of your own way” is brilliant. I really needed this post; thanks so much.
    Karen

    1. Thank you, Karen. I can’t claim coming up with “get out of your own way,” but it really resonates with me. I needed to give myself permission to write in a way that fits for me, and I realized I was probably not alone in that.

  2. Wonderfully said! I have been “around” the blogsphere and more craft books/posts then I can count and in the end here is the advice that works – Do What Works for You.

    Most of the craft books, while they do have useful information, are another persons way of looking at writing-their method. By sharing it, each of these generally well-intentioned authors is attempting to assist writers that haven’t found a method yet, explore their options. Yet, in the end, the only system that will work is the one you find for yourself from all of that advice. Been on this road myself and now that I am “struggling” (yes it is tough, no it isn’t an actual struggle) to find and refine my own method, I’m finding that the more I pursue my own way of doing things, the better my writing becomes, the more I want to write, and the less stressed I am over the little things.

    Excellent post, Elizabeth🙂

    And now – off to read Ruth’s post. Can’t wait to see what a puzzler is.

    1. Thanks, Gene. You’ve put it perfectly–to explore the options in the writing advice. I do not mean to cast aspersions on the craft books at all, but they often describe one writer’s process. It took me a while, but I finally figured out why some habits refused to stick, and it’s okay that I can’t write like any of my ROW80 friends. I write like me.

  3. I agree. There are as many ways to write as there are writers. I think it’s helpful to hear what other writers’ processes are while you’re trying to figure out your own. But if something doesn’t work for you, quit doing it. Sometimes I have to outline a story before I can write it. Other times I enjoy just kind of discovering what happens as I tap fingers on the keyboard. There isn’t one right way—just the right way for me.

    Great post!

    1. Thank you, Jae. You’re right, sometimes the process differs among works as well. We should experiment with different approaches, but I’ve heard people try to force themselves into a process because Writer X writes that way. I like your comment–if it doesn’t work, quit doing it. Well put!

  4. This post couldn’t have come at a better time! I’m currently sussing through some writing advice, & you just gave me the “permission” I longed for to throw out what doesn’t seem to apply. Now I understand better why I couldn’t seem to make it stick — great advice isn’t always great FOR ME! Thanks, friend!🙂

    1. Thank you, Lauralynn. Your comparison is apt, since the world of health advice may be even more confusing than writing advice. It was a bit on an “aha!” moment when I realized the writing advice was a buffet. I didn’t have to eat it all🙂

  5. I loved this! I’ve learned to glean ideas, perspective, skills, etc. from other writers, but at the end of the day, I need a process that works for ME. Great post, Elizabeth!

    1. Thank you, Julie. There is so much to glean (I love that word) out there, but it needs to fit. I’m still working on finding my own process, but I envision it akin to kicking off the work heels at the end of the day and putting on my fuzzy slippers.🙂

  6. Bravo, Elizabeth! The only thing I would add is that because we each have a life, what works for us today may not work tomorrow. Listening to yourself with llexibility and the life-long learner attitude goes a long way.

      1. Excellent point, Lynette. What goes on in our external lives impacts our habits, so flexibility is key. I think if one has made something a habit, it steps back into place more easily, unless the disruptions are so long, a new habit has to be created.

        Thanks for the insightful comment.

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