Look. There’s a lot of information on the internet about maximizing your writing process.
You can find articles that will tell you to write in the morning. Or the evening. Or with an outline. Or with a story board. With people, without people. Chronologically. Not chronologically. Standing up! Sitting down! (Fight! Fight! Fight!)
Guess what? It’s all bullshit. And reading advice about how you “should be” writing is hurting your productivity.
While I guarantee that there are people out there that write best from 11:32 AM to 3:15 PM on every third Wednesday, the fact of the matter is this: other people’s writing processes have no bearing on what will work best for you. And, by allowing other people to tell you how to write, you’re setting up the expectation that whatever you would do naturally is not good enough.
If Stephen King writes every day–including Christmas–doesn’t that mean that you should do the same thing? Or if Johnny Bestseller used this outlining process and sold a million copies, shouldn’t you follow his lead? You certainly could try. And, hey, I’m not going to say that it will not work for you. It might.
But, more often, what I hear from the writers I work with is some variation on this theme: “When I sit down to write, all I want to do is ____________. But I know that I need to do ____________ instead, if I want to be a successful writer, and so I get discouraged and can’t write anything at all.”
Does this sound familiar?
The fact is, writing is a deeply personal pursuit. Which means that there are as many ways to approach the process of writing as there are writers. Some of you will work best with an outline. Some will work best with a set schedule. But others will work best after taking a hot bath and eating a bar of chocolate. Or working only when inspiration strikes. (As long as you actually drop everything to write when inspiration strikes–but that’s another blog post.)
And, however you work, you can probably find an article that will tell you that your way of writing is the “right way.” But for every article that you find that tells you that you’re doing a good job, there will be seventeen thousand that will tell you what you’re doing is wrong. Or problematic. Or reducing your productivity. Because people want you to rely on them for information–if you can figure out how to write on your own, why read their blog?
Well, I’m here to tell you this: You are the only expert about your writing process. Period. You get to decide what works best for you. If you need to brain dump 500 pages of random thoughts before you write your book, do it! If you need to wear a hat and do a little dance before you sit down to write, great. I don’t care what your writing process looks like, as long as you listen to yourself and pay attention to what works for you.
Sure, that might mean sampling a bunch of different approaches. You might want to switch things up once in a while or try something new. But, at the end of the day, you have to trust yourself to know what works best for you. There’s no magic bullet for hitting your word count. And, honestly, maybe a daily word count isn’t the way to go. If you can crank out 10,000 words a weekend when you’re feeling it, who cares if you got a thousand words on Tuesday? What matters is whether you’re writing in a way that feels good for you.
And, ultimately, you need to stop feeling bad about the way you want to write. It’s true that you’re going to have to revise more if you don’t draft with a well-constructed outline. But who cares? People who draft with an outline are going to have to do more work before they start writing. And, if you’re trying to implement a process that isn’t naturally suited for the way that you write, you’re going to have WAY more work whatever way you slice it. Working against yourself when you write is like trying to write with your non-dominant hand; it’s an exercise in frustration. Plus, it kind of hurts.
No one except you is keeping track of how fast you write. If drafting takes you a bit longer than someone else, who cares? Some people take longer to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich than other people do. Some people take longer to write books than other people do. Some people run a mile faster than other people. There’s no prize for drafting your book in the shortest time or deleting the fewest words from your original manuscript. All anyone will ever see is your end result. When your readers are wowed by your book, does it matter how many days it took you to write it?
So. For the sake of your productivity (and your sanity), remember this: All writing processes are equally valid. What’s important is finding the process that works for you.
And then embracing it.
I’d love to hear about your writing process. Do you have any rituals or conditions for productive writing? Do you use an outline? Draft in your sweatpants only? Let me know in the comments!