I recently found this quotation from Lilly Helman:
“If I had to give young writers advice, I would say don’t listen to writers talking about writing or themselves.”
This really rang some bells for me. I know a lot of people out there have studied how to write, either through texts on how to write, or writing workshops, or even with accredited degrees. If those methods work for them – fantastic!
Personally, I studiously avoided studying writing while I was working on my novel, ‘The Artemis Effect’. There were a couple of reasons for this.
- I was only initially writing it for myself, and perhaps a few friends, and so I felt it didn’t really matter if my writing wasn’t great literature.
- I felt that by taking it to a writer’s workshop, there was a chance I would be so deflated and disappointed by their responses that I wouldn’t finish the book. A writer’s ego can be a fragile thing! A wise lecturer I had at University once said that it is infinitely easier to criticize than create.
- I’m reluctant to show anyone work which is really incomplete, as it isn’t really being judged on it’s merits.
- To be brutally frank, in all my creative efforts, whether painting or writing, I find that intellectualizing the process is destructive.
Since starting blogging, I’ve read lots of great advice on writing, from how to develop your characters properly, to how to make dialogue sound more realistic. I’ve used some of that advice in the prolonged editing process of the novel, and I’m sure it has improved the story, but I’m still glad I didn’t have all that advice coming in as I was writing it the first time. The process of writing for me is very much about my brain and the page, free from as many distractions as possible, including good advice. My writing is ultimately unique because no-one but me could have written it. I realize that this may sound like a slightly egotistical approach, but it was really a way of avoiding getting bogged down in the fear of inadequacy that some advice can generate.
I’d be very interested to hear if this has been anyone elses approach, or if writing courses and workshops have genuinely helped you get there! 🙂
To finish, I’d like to quote Richard Bach, who said:
“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”