The distraction of writer tricks

“Here’s just four easy steps to amazing writing!” — said by no one ever, not even Tony Robbins.

You know, I haven’t sat down to blog — really blog, to make a point about something other than newsy stuff — for a few weeks now. Between travel and jet lag and then catching up at the day job, combined with the stress of the will-they / won’t-they with regard to my publisher and my book…yeah. Hard to get stuff down on the page. I haven’t felt this kind of writing malaise in quite a while. But I’m working on it.

Of course, I have my own little tricks to get myself back on track. Every writer does. And therein lies the problem for folks who, invariably, want to know the Secret Sauce of writing. A colleague at my day job pointed out a recent piece in The New York Times on interviews writers give and how they usually turn to writing techniques, and of course, the little tricks writers use to motivate themselves to keep plugging away.The author of the Times piece said he was addicted to that advice more than anything else.

There’s enough self-help advice to writers out there to make Tony Robbins smile bright…well, brighter than usual. And there’s a huge audience for it, too. Heck, I’ve been filling out responses to interview questions already, and there have been several having to do with how I write. And I’m not sure how hugely useful that will be. What works for me may not — probably will not — work for you.

Every writer has a different vibe, unique to that writer. Some writers say you gotta disconnect and give yourself space, and writing retreats are huge for that; others believe that you need a routine, and regular interaction with humanity, to stay focused and keep your writing connected. Some say you need training; others say writing can’t be taught. Some will say that outlining is the key to success; others believe it’s the last refuge of a hack. Write standing up. Write sitting down. Write in the morning when you’re fresh. Write when everyone else is in bed. Write every free moment. Write only when inspired. Write in your own special writer-fort. Write on your phone on your commute. Write what you know. Write what you don’t know.

Holy crap. Ho-lee ker-app. Do you realize that if you took all the writing advice put out there by writers — even, let’s say, the advice given by successful, published writers — you’d get a morass of contradictory advice that would rendered the hundreds of hours of reading utterly meaningless? Heck, this very blog has writing advice that I’ve put out there, and the simple fact is: it worked for me. It may not work for you.

When all is said and done, I find myself agreeing with the amazingly creative Chuck Wending (so creative that even his frequent bursts of profanity are practically an art form). If you want to be a writer, put your ass in a chair and write. OK, fine, use a treadmill desk. Whatever. You get the idea. People who read a bunch of advice about writing are, in that moment, reading. Reading when they could be writing.

Yes, as I’ve said before, there’s something to be said for education about the craft of writing. And there may be tidbits to be gleaned about writing from the techniques and tricks authors use — though, I fear, far less than you’d think. In the end, though, you’re not going to know what tricks get you on track until you sit down and write.

So maybe you do your best writing in the morning on the couch, or in an office with the shades drawn. Maybe you need to travel a lot to see the world, maybe you’re perfectly content to go full hermit. You won’t know until you actually get down to the writing. So write.

See? I just did a blog post. That wasn’t too hard. Onward!

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