In my relatively short time in the blogosphere, I've come to understand a couple of things. First, most people who blog about writing are passionate about it and, in my experience, very nice cyber-people indeed. Second, things work in cycles.
The truth is there are only so many things you can write about and so many angles you can take on a specific subject. It’s inevitable that some repetition creeps in and we all end up saying similar things.
And I’ve no problem with that because the blog format isn’t exactly kind to new readers and there’s every chance they won’t find old content. Some recycling of previous topics is fine.
However, there are some subjects, some pieces of advice that get thrown around like confetti, which a) I don’t agree with, and b) are said as if they are a given, to be taken as read, absolute certainties.
Well they're not. Absolutely not.
Write - for goodness sake write!
The concept that's particularly tickled my irritable bone this past month is the one that says in order to be considered 'a writer', we must write, write and continue writing until we can simply write no more.
It's the idea that when we're struggling to find the words or finding some part of our work particularly tricky, we must plough on regardless. Because that's what writers do.
It's nonsense. Writers are not machines. We are people. Life (and writing) is rarely that simple.
An analogy about a plumber, some piping problems and a biscuit
Here's a rubbish analogy for you. If a plumber cuts his or her hand on a pipe and it's bleeding all over your nice new carpet, you don't say 'Carry on plumbing! Plumb man (or woman). Plumb like you've never plumbed before!'
Instead you say, 'Goodness me, you've made a mess of that haven't you? Here, sit down. Let me make you a cup of tea and get you a biscuit. Perhaps when we've got that blood cleaned up and you've had a chance to think about what's happened, you can crack on again. Tell me, do you charge by the hour?'
Here's my point...
Don't write for the sake of writing
There is no use in writing continuously, relentlessly, if you're only doing it because you think that's what you should be doing. If you're only doing it because, you know, that's what you do. Because you're a writer.
What will you have gained, and I mean really gained, by ploughing on when you're entirely lacking inspiration? 500 words of useless content? 1000 words? More?
Writers do a hell of a lot more than just write. We are not in any way defined by the number of hours we sit in front of our computer screens. There are other things that you can be doing when the going gets tough.
I advocate all of the following as preferable alternatives to the write, write, write claptrap I've seen spouted so often in the online writing community:
- whatever you're working on - read the flippin' thing
- write something else - anything
- use a pencil and paper to make a suitable plan
- use a pencil and paper to draw an entirely unrelated picture of an animal holding some fruit
- speak to a friend or family member (not about writing)
- eat something brown and sticky, preferably chocolate
- invent a new game with elastic bands and fluff (any fluff)
- have a bath and work out which toe fits best in one of the taps
- read a cor-blimey-blinkin'-book for crying out loud!
Whatever it takes
What I'm saying is that I don't care what you do, just don't think that to 'be a writer' you have to grind yourself into the ground, because you don't. You have to work hard, yes. But you don't have to spend every waking hour trying to do what some blogo-nitwit on the internet (including me) says you should be doing.
And if someone questions your commitment because you chose to watch X Factor or American Idol rather than attempt to beat your writer's block with an hour and a half's worth of horrible, depressing, turgid, ultimately unusable writing, please tell them to shove their judgemental claptrap right up their bum.
Writing for the sake of writing is a waste of time.
A writer does whatever he or she needs to do to produce their best work. And sometimes it's really, really tough. But there are many ways of approaching your writing. You have alternatives. There is no prescribed method.
Jerry's My final thought
My advice is this:
Ignore anyone who tells you that you must or must not do something, anything, for you to legitimately call yourself a writer, and that includes the act of writing itself. It isn't always the answer and it's definitely not the qualifying criteria.
Instead, do whatever you want. Do whatever it takes. Do what's best for you.
Amen to that, sister. I'm off to have a bath.
Share your thoughts
I'd be very interested to know what you think about this one. Are there certain subjects that get bandied around the blogosphere that you don't agree with? Are you fed up of being told what you should and should not be doing for you to call yourself a writer? Got an interesting fluff-and-elastic-based structure to show us? Help yourself in the comments section below.