Why “Just Write” Isn’t Exactly Sophisticated Advice
Although I’ve benefited from this advice—and no doubt given it—I’m starting to think it isn’t specific enough. And that’s because advice could be more tailored to who the writer is:
1. A professional or well-trained writer who feels “blocked.”
2. A person who has “always wanted” to be a writer.
3. Someone suffering from writing anxiety.
I have no idea how I learned to write. I can create a romantic version of my experience—dyslexic failing elementary school, strict but kind teacher, discovering poetry, etc. etc. But this may all be hindsight.
And so, “just write” may be good for the person who knows how to write but just can’t at the moment. This approach tends to the quick and spontaneous, to overriding self criticism, and to productivity. However, as a person who “wrote” at least three failed novels, I can say that filling pages really isn’t enough.
To write, a person must also read—and eventually, read as a writer. This involves deepening your relationship to structure, and actually understanding—on several levels—how a piece of writing is made.
For all three of the classic genres—non-fiction, fiction, and poetry—it is essential to know the rules of structure. And love those rules, engage with them, fight them, incorporate them.
So for the person who has always wanted to write—I suggest just that—reading and studying. Then writing. Then the uncomfortable questions—do I like this? Is this for me?
The bottom line is: I wish I’d learned earlier that writing is a relationship. Yes, it is a set of ancient productive craft rules, combined with pure effort. But it can also be showing off, slacking off, rebellion, and acquiescence.
And that is how I’d address anxiety. Get close. Don’t over analyze. Let the creative process soothe you.
Like all relationship, you tend to get what you give. But sometimes what you give may have to be partial, conflicted, or just plain weird.
That should work too.