There Is No Advice for Writers

So today I’m working on my #stupidnovel, putting aside all the tv, books and music that normally distracts me. I admit, I’m a distracted writer. I write with the tv on and spend half my time looking up and down from one screen to the other. Usually, it works for me, especially if the show is something I’ve seen before. I need the ambient nose of movement and voices to really concentrate. For me, the best way to concentrate is to provide a distraction to ignore.

Usually. The last few days have proven the exception to the rule. Through cricket, two rugby league games, a documentary and the 24-hour news channel, I have been unable to produce the same work I normally do. It was the weekend, of course, which is always a time when I zone out more. The Atheist Wife was home and we cleaned, went to a fundraising event and watched a pair of political documentaries together like the huge nerds we are as a kind of time-together date. I decided to just go with the flow instead of try to fight through the block to my concentration.

One thing I did to readjust my brain was read. The library is less than a block away from my house, so I check out a lot of books. I decided to see if I couldn’t finish one so I could return it on Monday. One of the books that I have is called The Writer’s Idea Book by Jack Heffron. It’s really a book about developing the ideas behind a piece of work, whether it be novel, nonfiction or otherwise. Heffron offers his point of view as a writer and laces it throughout with prompts to use for practice. I recommend it if you like something that’s between a workbook, a guidebook and a self-help book.

I think I read about a third of the book over the weekend, mostly because I couldn’t put it down. Every chapter I read ended up teaching me something about my #stupidnovel. The chapters on character helped me look at one of my characters in a different way. The chapter on point of view helped me understand what I was trying to do with my descriptions and details. And speaking of descriptions, the book showed me why descriptions are necessary and why I keep leaving them out (hint: because I’m still learning how to write even after all this time). Everything I read in Heffron’s book was great advice and it really changed where my mind was. It got me out of the jam I was in.

I have at least three other books about writing waiting on my table to be read right now. They all purport to offer advice, to be guides to writing character or getting published. The key thing about them, though, is that word “advice.” Honestly, these books do help me, but not in the way you might think.

To be perfectly blunt, there is no such thing as “advice for writers.” No one can truly advise you on the right way to write. The only thing they can do (and I would suggest only if they are writers themselves) is offer an example of what worked for them. Note, it worked for them, but it may not and probably will not work for you. The distinction is important.

In the end, my friends, writing all comes down to you and what you’re writing. The reason I read books about writing isn’t to find a way to write, but to find a way to find a way to write. Today, The Writer’s Idea Book helped me find my way. Tomorrow some other book might do that. Either way, I’ll just have to keep finding ways to write this #stupidnovel.


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