Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Individual, the Writer: Keep Out of My Box!

Every individual is, surprising enough, an individual. I think we lose sight of this sometimes. We, as fellow writers, all want to write something that is accepted and adored, published broad and wide, bought by millions and enjoyed by more. doing so, we are desperate—we push, we strive, we seek advice, read how-to manuals, we do everything possible to be better. Better writers, better creators and better artists.

But let’s think about this.

Art is SO subjective. So, why do we put such stock into the advice of others? How do we know that what they have to say will help us? Simple answer: We don’t. And yet someone that has sold millions, worked for years, and has name recognition in league with Bill Gates, captures our attention with their how-to book on how we can become better writers.

But will their success be an echo for you?

Ever see those art spatters that someone, with a wad of cash burning a hole in their pockets, pays millions for? (...$@#%!!?) So, do you want to make some paint splatter? If so: Great! For me, a little chaotic splatter can be a wonderful backdrop in art or writing, but I want some structure too.

But, hey, we’re human. How can we not look to others to emulate, it’s the smart thing to do. Why would we want to waste our time making mistakes that others have made before and we can learn from. Indeed.

Still...remember what we propose by seeking another’s advice for our art. It can become an effort to put someone else’s structure to a process that is a natural part of ourselves and a culmination of our experiences? If there is anything to take away from an education in writing or visual art, it should be a greater understanding of the subject and a broadening viewpoint.

Point of this all is: Everyone learns and IS a different kind of artist.

Some people may be quite similar, but there is a lot of individuality. So, if I want to be a great writer, should I turn to Stephen King, Danielle Steel, J.K. Rowling, Tolkien, (insert Big Name here) and read every blog post, book on writing, or article; listen to every podcast, interview, and so on, in some obscene effort, trying to become them? This may help some, their writing style may naturally vibe with their chosen mentor. (Lucky them.) But if your natural tendencies do not vibe or work with your mentor, then you might just be hurting yourself.

This is just my own opinion, but when you try to constrain your creativity to the bounds of someone else, you may be destroying everything that is beautiful and different about your own art.

I can’t lay claim to know everything and I am certainly not suggesting that when my book is released it will sell millions of copies, or that publishing houses will be disemboweling each other for a shot at having their logo on the binding of my book, but my feeling is: You can listen, you can read, you can absorb all this writing knowledge, from different perspectives, and it CAN benefit you; but you need to look at it with a grain of salt, and you can’t let it change who you are as a writer. Learn from it, take what you can, don’t let it change YOU.
Final Thought: One thing I’ve done (possibly right) is reading and reviewing books with an analytical eye; looking for what I like and what I don’t. It has forced me to understand the books on a different level than a mere read-through AND there has been no voice in my ear telling me what to think or how, other than my own. The books of choice have included a variety of genres, viewpoints, styles and methods and I can only hope that this will prove of value.
Write on!
(Thanks to online buddy Steve Yeager for firing up this rant/blog/insight.)


  1. No matter how you write, even if you say your are imitating Tolkien, it will never be the same. You do not possess his mind and soul (unless you are channeling him from the beyond), so whatever you write will have 'you' stamped all over it.

    I think it is better to learn from those who have found success than from those who write rules on how to be successful.

    1. Exactly the point, and why a writer's education is fraught with (deadly) peril. We must walk the line between finding inspiration and new understanding and trying to emulate. (Which I'm sure could be a good lesson, but is doubtful to be a successful method to write.)

  2. People want a magic formula, something that works.

    This applies to writing and diet advice and get rich quick schemes too...

    1. Wait? Get Rich Quick Schemes don't work?

      Yes, well, we all want something quicker and easier than it really comes. Sometimes it just takes hard work, and there is no other way to put it.


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