Ever since I was in middle school I’ve devoured writing advice. Whenever I came across an interview with an author in my mom’s newspaper or online (these were the early days of laptops in schools and nothing was locked down) I hunted for that all-important question, “What advice would you give to young writers?”
What the authors said, of course, was wildly contradictory. If one author said to write in the mornings, before you expended creative energy on anything else, another would counter that you should write only late at night, after the house has gone to bed and the world is your oyster. Where one author would insist that writing straight from ‘once up on a time’ to ‘the end,’ another would encourage readers to write their favorite scenes first and then string them together.
Whenever I saw recommendations that meshed with my own style, I felt vindicated. I was doing it right! If the suggestions ran counter to my preferences, I immediately wrote them off as nonsense.
After spending a few years trying my hand at responsible adulthood, I’m back at writing. Among the many other attributes that maturity (heh) brings, I’ve come to the realization that none of the advice I absorbed, copied, and taped to my bedroom walls actually matters. More accurately, it’s all sprinkles. Things like “Never use a long word where a short word will do” work stupendously for that particular author (George Orwell) but would absolutely sink someone else (like Faulkner).
I’ve realized that there is only one genuinely universal truth about writing.
Great, right? Whatever their method, the only thing that ever single writer in the world has in common is that they put pen to paper. Or fingers to keys. Or voice to recorder. However they do it.
Talking about your genius idea isn’t writing. Endless research isn’t it either. If you’re not writing, then you’re not a writer.
If I’m not writing, then I’m not a writer. So that’s what I’m going to do. And one day, hopefully, I’ll be able to turn ‘writer’ into ‘author.’