I spent this past weekend at a creative non-fiction writer’s conference with my mom. We had such a great time spending our days attending lectures, panels, readings, and story slams, usually with a cup of tea or coffee in our hands. Creative non-fiction isn’t even my primary genre, but I thought it would be beneficial to branch out a little and explore some new things.
This post is by Positive Writer contributor The Magic Violinist.
And I was right; I received great advice from various memoirists and freelance writers about craft, the publishing industry, and marketing. But early on something became apparent: the knowledge I gained was contradictory.
What to do with conflicting information
In one lecture I was told to buy a planner, set strict deadlines for myself, and track my progress with steadfast determination. In another presentation, I heard that deadlines ruined the magic of a good story and that we writers shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. In the morning, I was urged to write my first draft as quickly as possible and to churn out new work every day. By that afternoon, someone suggested to focus on quality instead of speed or quantity.
If you’ve been following enough websites on writing for as long as I have, you’ve probably faced a similar dilemma. The information flies at us at breakneck speed, giving us opposite instructions: “Edit as you write!/Don’t edit as you go!” “Share your work with others!/Don’t show anyone anything until it’s polished!” “Use semicolons!; Don’t use semicolons!” “Write every day!/Give yourself breaks!”
It can be a little overwhelming, especially for new writers trying to figure this whole thing out. So how are you supposed to sort through the information and find out what’s true? Do you look at the credentials of the author writing the article? Do you follow whatever advice is being told the most often? Do you ask your fellow writers for help?
Art is subjective
The truth is, it doesn’t matter what advice you follow, so long as it works for you. Writing, like all art, is subjective. While there may be certain writing styles that are held in high regard, it’s still all based in opinion. Sitting in a class on writing isn’t like taking a math class; there’s no one right answer.
Some authors will try to tell you that rising before the sun is a must if you’re ever going to get anything done. After all, aren’t the early hours the best ones for productivity? Shouldn’t you try to crank out 3,000 words before even shuffling to the kitchen for breakfast?
As a night owl, I’ll be the first to tell you that it is not necessary for you to drag yourself out of bed at some ungodly hour to blink bleary-eyed at the screen in front of you and try to coax your tired and clumsy fingers into typing out comprehensible sentences. If setting the alarm an hour earlier makes you more creative and productive, by all means, go for it. But it is not the only way, nor should it be.
Do what works for you
If there were one tried-and-true writing process, we would all be brilliant, bestselling authors and websites like “Positive Writer” would be useless. Thankfully, there is no one process and websites on writing live on because of it. The beauty of art is that we as the creators get to experiment all the time with different methods of getting words down on the page.
If you’re feeling stuck with your current routine, switch it up. Take some of that contradictory advice you received and try something new. What works for one writer will not work for another, so it’s up to you to test your options. Eventually, you’ll find something that helps.
Don’t be overwhelmed when you find yourself surrounded by articles that all tell you different things. Instead, view those opposing opinions as a writing buffet. Pick and choose whatever looks good to you until your plate is full, but don’t feel pressured to finish it all or go back for seconds. This is your chance to taste test and play. Trust me when I say, one day, something will stick.
What do you do with conflicting information? How do you decide what advice to follow? Leave a comment!
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