Writing advice is abundant everywhere around us. Books, magazines, websites, social media, and blogs, are filled with tips and formulas from experts and bestselling authors. There is advice on every aspect of the writing process, from avoiding procrastination, to outlining and planning, to character creation, plotting, description, dialogue, and editing.
Much of this advice is excellent and very helpful if you need to work on a particular aspect of the writing craft. However, much of it is also conflicting and very subjective, and can leave an aspiring writer feeling as though they are doing something wrong if they are not meeting certain standards or goals.
Writing, like any creative process, is very personal. While there is always room to improve of the craft aspects of writing – the “nuts and bolts” so to speak, such as sentence and scene structure, plotting, dialogue, setting, description, and characterisation – the actual process of writing is highly personal.
Some writers prefer to work from outlines, make copious notes and plan extensively before beginning a first draft, while others prefer to dive straight in. Some will write out their first draft as quickly as possible, while others prefer to work more slowly and make sure each part of the story is just right before continuing. Some authors advise writing every day, while others write in bursts with breaks in between.
There are writers that can churn out a first draft within a few weeks, and publish several novels per year, while others work more slowly, perhaps writing only one novel per year, or even less. Each writer prefers to work in a different environment, has certain rituals, and preferred tools to work with.
All of these aspects of being a writer are highly individual, and unlike the craft aspects of writing, there is no right or wrong way of doing it. Just because a certain process works for a famous author, does not mean it will work for you. By all means, read their advice and adopt what feels right for you, and continue to experiment until you find your own process.
But don’t feel that you are somehow lacking or a failure if you can’t churn out a first draft within a certain time frame, or if you can’t meet a certain daily word count. Don’t feel as though you should quit if you don’t write every single day, or can’t write 2000 words an hour. Don’t feel inferior if you can’t set and maintain a strict daily writing schedule.
Yes, writing takes dedication and work, but we are all different and have different rhythms and schedules. There is no single “right way” to be a writer. Whether you sit down and type up an entire first draft over a weekend, or if you ruminate, take notes, plan, and gradually draft out a novel over a period of many months, you are still a writer.
It can be very useful to set goals, but be a little flexible as well. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself that stressing out about writing (or a lack of writing) is taking up more of your time than writing is.
There is no faster killer of creativity for many people than worrying too much about keeping a rigid schedule or maintaining word count goals (of course this is also subjective – some writers thrive in just such an environment).
Remember to have fun with your writing. Enjoy the journey. And don’t be too hard on yourself.