Greetings, all, and welcome back to Lands Uncharted. I hope this post finds you and yours well and in good health. For today’s blog, I’d like to offer you the single piece of advice that I find to be invaluable.
I spend a significant amount of time in the car during the week, and as I do, I like to listen to podcasts about writing. One episode I heard last week contained this piece of advice that I decided is pure genius: trust your process.
Trust your process.
As we set out on our paths to become writers, or progress on our journeys to become better writers, it is natural to look at other authors and consider how they “do it.” How does this author publish so many books each year? How does that one consistently write well enough to win all of those awards? How can I become a better writer so that I can stand on the playing field with them? Our desire to create stories that are good enough to get noticed in a crowded market can lead us to examine the processes of others, which is how we grow. As we try the various production techniques of other authors and see which fit, we begin to develop a system of our own.
And then we begin to compare. We may notice that this author produces at an astonishing rate of three books per year, and we wonder why we’re not churning out stories that quickly. Or we see that author winning yet another award, and we wonder why our writing doesn’t even make it to the short list of any competition we enter. We begin to doubt the processes we’re using, and we think that if we could just find that one thing that those other writers do, we could finally shoulder our way onto the bookshelves. So we try other people’s processes but find that what works for them doesn’t work for us. This writer produces so many books because she writes every day, but I can’t write every day because my day job demands a lot of my mental resources, and I’m creatively spent when I get home. Or that writer uses this technique blended with that technique to produce award-winning plots, yet those same techniques frustrate me and leave my creative wheels spinning.
Somewhere along the path of becoming better writers, we get caught up in the processes of others and become trapped in a pattern of comparison and competition until we’re so tangled up in techniques and methods that we don’t even want to put words on a page any more.
It is good to try the things that work for other authors. If we don’t consistently try new methods, we won’t find those that help us and we won’t grow in ability or skill. The problem arises when we abandon what works for us in favor of what works for someone else and get frustrated when that thing that works for someone else doesn’t work for us.
For example, I currently teach five different classes of high school English. This means I prepare five different lessons each day, which takes a lot of creativity. Then I teach those classes, which takes a lot of energy. Then, after the school day ends, I grade the work produced by my students during those classes, which often means I don’t have any creativity, energy, or time to invest in my own writing, so I can’t write every day. A lot of authors will tell you to write every day, which is an excellent piece of advice, but if I let myself be defeated because I can’t seem to find a twenty-fifth hour in a twenty-four hour day, then I would give up and never produce the works that I have managed to create. If, instead, I use that advice to try to improve my process but abandon it when it doesn’t work for me, then I am able to develop a system that enables me to get the words in my heart and my head out onto the page. I may not be producing a book every year, but I am at least producing consistently.
I share all of this to encourage you as you make your way along the writer’s path. It is good to study the methods and try out the techniques of other authors, but if they don’t help you, it’s also good to set them aside. What is important is not what works for someone else, but what works for you. Find those things that help you create stories you love and build those methods and techniques into a system that matches your personality and lifestyle. Then trust your process as you write those stories you long to tell.