Advice on writing is pretty much like advice on anything that is personal: what people tell you is usually a lot more about them and their writing, and a lot less about you and yours.
Sure some advice is sound and good for everyone: proofread what you write; use a dictionary; the spellchecker is your friend. Those are pretty much universal.
But as soon as someone starts telling me that “You have to…” I start to get suspicious and you should too. I’m sure there are times where it could be useful if the world was ‘one size fits all’ especially when giving helpful advice, but that’s not the way the world works, especially when it comes to something creative and I for one am thankful.
I relish the fact that we are all different, that someone can give me an entirely different view of the world around us. I love that someone can make me think; that I can be challenged and pushed my limits, but there are no hard and fast rules: not really.
Even ‘I before E except after C,’ is followed by exceptions and there are even exceptions to the exceptions that we just don’t talk about.
Being a writer, I have read books and articles, taken classes on writing and through it all I have learned more about the people writing/teaching and what works for them rather than what works for me.
Let’s face it, I have read that you must: write in complete silence; that you must write at the same time each day, and that you should follow a ritual to ‘get yourself into the mood.’ Some of these may work for you, some may not. It really depends on you, how you work and what’s available at that time. If you find something that works for you, cherish it, take it to heart and use it, but don’t be dependent on it.
I once had a cup I used at the office for my coffee/water/whatever I was drinking, and someone kindly took it home to clean. I couldn’t work because while I was deep in thought I would reach for my cup and it wasn’t there, and that would pull me out of whatever I was doing, and no matter what I did: I kept reaching for that cup.
I learned from this to not be quite so specific in my ‘habits’ (and to keep an emergency backup mug available)
You should always try and improve your craft, but sometimes the best thing to do is smile and nod and know, “this will not work for me.” If you aren’t sure: try it out. See if it works. If it does, wonderful! If, however, it does nothing for you, or worse makes things harder, leave it. Don’t dwell on it, just leave it and don’t look back.
Me? I need silence if I’m really tired and trying to keep a train of thought from derailing, but most of the time, noise or silence, as long as it’s constant: I’m good. As for writing in the same place at the same time? <insert laughter here> I’d love to try that some day.
I never know if I’m working from home, driving into the office or taking the train… and you want me to schedule time in? I’m going to cram it in when I can… before work… after work, on the train, waiting for the train, before I head home, before I go to bed, in bed… when I’m sitting on the side of the road at 03:00 with my light bar on to warn people to slow down, or I’m stuck in a traffic jam that is at a two hour dead stop, I’ll be writing (or serving brie and crackers to my fellow motorists).
I always think of those commercials where they talk about raising children and how at first you research everything, and you read all the reviews and then you ‘get real’. Writing is like that to me, and notice the ‘to me’ in there.
Some people work better with a full outline and all their research laid out beforehand. Some people work better sequentially. Some people don’t. So yes, read the advice people have to offer, listen to them but know yourself, and trust yourself.
Only you know what will really work for you. That’s my advice.
Before posting, I almost always run my post by my friends in my writing circle for comments and reviews and with this one, I was reminded by a very dear lady that the spell checker is not always your friend. Which reminded me of a poem that had, fortuitously, arrived in my in box on Friday:
Candidate for a Pullet Surprise
by Mark Eckman and Jerrold H. Zar
I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.
Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it’s weigh.
My checker tolled me sew.
A checker is a bless sing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
And aides me when eye rime.
Each frays come posed up on my screen
Eye trussed too bee a joule.
The checker pours o’er every word
To cheque sum spelling rule.
Bee fore a veiling checker’s
Hour spelling mite decline,
And if we’re lacks oar have a laps,
We wood bee maid too wine.
Butt now bee cause my spelling
Is checked with such grate flare,
Their are know fault’s with in my cite,
Of nun eye am a wear.
Now spelling does knot phase me,
It does knot bring a tier.
My pay purrs awl due glad den
With wrapped word’s fare as hear.
To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should bee proud,
And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
Sew flaw’s are knot aloud.
Sow ewe can sea why aye dew prays
Such soft wear four pea seas,
And why eye brake in two averse
Buy righting want too pleas.
just something to keep in mind.
And… since I have suggested having your software read things back to you… keep in mind, it’s not 100% either – consider this transcription (also from Friday)
“This is The Center for Die a beat ease and End of chronology calling…”