Last updated on January 31, 2019
Like that title alliteration? It came to me in the shower. You know, that magical place from where all great ideas flow… like water… cough gag corny
To be honest, I don’t have anything of brilliance to offer on the subject matter, which is why this is editorial commentary and not help. I’m sure a point will emerge as I go. Because, case in point, sometimes I don’t outline and use stream of consciousness to get where I’m going. I’ve talked about this before, the whole outlining vs. not outlining thing and how it can adversely affect creativity if you outline yourself into a corner. When was I going on about that? The spring maybe? I haven’t changed my mind or anything. I still have the same perspective, so not about to do a one-eighty on you.
It’s more, in the time since I wrote that post, I’ve seen a crap tonne (that’s a technical weight term… and that was humour in case you didn’t catch that and were about to go and look that up) more articles about “pantsters” and “plotters” and writing process. I’ve seen so many, it’s been going through my head, the number of cookie-cutter fluff articles out there and the number of people who are all over them, but never get anything done. To me, these guys appear to just want to “be in the club”, y’know?
Right off the jump, and I’ve said it before, I fucking hate catch phrases and labels. They irk the shit out of me. A year ago, no one knew those words (okay, not no one, but you get what I mean). Now? They’re upward trending Twitter hashtags and Google keywords.
All this special snowflake shit makes me want to hurl. Everybody wants a bloody label they can trot out to validate themselves, because their mommy didn’t love them enough in their formative years. Seriously, sack up, dude. Learn to self-validate and get out of the way of people who are working their asses off at their craft. You’re clogging up the view and the air with your amateur hour wannabe crap.
You know what that brains pace is good for? Finding articles about writing while not doing any doing.
If you’re in that place where you really do want to hone your craft and that’s why you’re reading these articles, my advice is just write something, okay? Quit reading these bloody articles about pantsters vs plotters or even everyone’s writing “process”, because they don’t matter. Not really. Every writer’s process is a little different. What works for J. K. Rowling or Stephen King or George R. R. Martin or even me may not work for you. Use the suggestions as breadcrumbs and then make your own path through the forest.
The only way that’s going to happen is through the trial-and-error of actual writing. It’s called practice. If you only ever read about writing and talk about writing, but never actually write anything down, newsflash – you’re not a writer. If that’s your M.O. then, at best, you’re a procrastinator – arguably something all writers excel in – or a poser.
A “real” writer, published or not, writes. It’s that simple.
When you’re unsure of yourself and want confirmation you’re approaching your writing the right way, I totally get that. Hand over my heart, I do. Every writer does, because the vast majority of writers, to varying degrees, suffer from fear of failure, performance anxiety and imposter syndrome. It’s that gnawing terror someone will find out we don’t actually know what we’re doing, that we truly suck, and expose us as a fraud. Trust me, it’s not just you. Forty years in and writing professionally in various fields and for my own amusement, I still fight those things. Remember, like in baseball, it’s the hard that makes it great. If it was easy, everyone would be a multi-million-dollar-a-year-revenue writer, don’t you think?
I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, it’s the terror that makes me careful. It makes me think about the words I use, makes me conscious of what I put out there into the world. It makes me work harder than I ever have at anything else, to evolve what I’m doing every time I do it. Why? Because I know I’m only as good as the last thing I put out there. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. If you can honestly say you’re the best you’re ever going to be and you can’t see how you can get any better as a writer, just take your ball and go home, okay? Because you’re not that good. No one is and I know you’re lying to yourself.
So, yes, study your craft. Read about the experiences of those who came before you. Discover the differences in approach from one writer to another. But don’t get so caught up in finding out about writing that you never write anything. Every week, I come in contact with multiple people in that endless loop or “finding out” about writing. They bandy about these buzzword and toss out the labels they’ve adopted for themselves, so they can achieve some perceived connection with other people. I guess that’s a human connection need? Fair enough. But they’re also the ones who talk about what they’re going to write, tell people they’re writers, but they never actually write anything. That’s different.
Don’t be that guy. Don’t be a poser. Don’t allow the fear of failure to sink you before you even start. Don’t allow the “finding out” about writing to consume you and be your excuse for procrastination and not producing anything.
If you’re a plotter, plot out a story and write that shit down. If you’re a pantster, then dispense with the outline, throw some headphones on and dive the hell in and get some words out. Don’t read another article about someone else’s process that uses up your writing time for the day and makes you put it off again until tomorrow.
Stick your arse in the chair and write the damn words down.