When I Want Your Advice I’ll Research It

A drawback to being a writer is having way too many how-to writing books. As if the books could impart a template that would enable you to sail forth and write prodigiously. The smarter books call themselves simply, ‘Guides”. The ones I give side-eye to are the ones that proclaim they are, “The Ultimate Guide”. I’m not sure anything is the ultimate guide to writing.

Part of the problem is people are different. How many times have you seen the argument about writing by the seat of your pants as opposed to being an outliner? Both have their strong points, and I get irritated with books that tell me I have to be one or the other or I’m doing it wrong. Their method is best “because” fill in the blank. Maybe it’s because I hate being told what to do, but these books never sit well with me. I started out a pantser, but have seen the value in some outlining. Compromise. It’s not just for toddlers anymore.

Here’s a little secret. I’m not a fan of writing prompts. I know some people swear by them, but I have enough ideas rattling around in my brain that doing something else seems counterproductive. So naturally, I force myself to do one now and then. I don’t want the ideas in my head to get complacent. This is the same reason I make myself write poetry forms occasionally. Or a short story – and I hate writing short stories. All my ideas want to be books. Except when they want to be poems. It gets confusing, but that’s part of the cat herding process of writing.

It’s good for a writer to embrace opposites. I’m not the most organized person in the world, so I read organizational tips in books with interest. I’m looking for the magic bullet that will organize me out of chaos. Hasn’t happened yet, but still I keep looking. Every new writing book might hold the key to keeping myself on track – and knowing what version of a poem is where. On the other hand, working in disarray often leads to some exciting discoveries. “I wrote that? Huh. It’s not bad.”

I’m not discounting all advice, I just like to be selective. So I sit with my highlighter and cherry-pick what I need or what applies to me. Or what I want to try. I have a vague notion I should rip those pages out of the books and put them in a binder. Once I get over my horror of deliberately defacing a book, I might just do that.

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