When ‘how to write’ advice turns ugly

Judging by the number of books about the writing process out there, I’m not alone when it comes to looking outside for reassurance about writing. Over the years, I’ve read a fair few detailing writing processes, from personal accounts to textbook style glossaries, but I keep running up against the same problem – sometimes I feel them hurting me more than they are helping.

That’s why I’ve been kind of avoiding them for a while. However, at New York Comic Con Ink and I were told again and again to read Stephen King’s On Writing and, under the weight of some significant peer pressure, I did.

Now the book itself I really quite enjoyed, and I can absolutely see why so many folks were encouraging aspiring comic writers to pick it up (it seems there are many, many people who think they can get into comics without actually studying the bones of writing) but for me it brought up the same uneasy feelings I always seem to have when it comes to books about writing.

Basically, these books give me the chance to have a look at my own methods and my own output and compare it unfavourably with those of the author. So, when they say they write x words a day, I feel inadequate and so on. I was sharing some of these worries post-book with Ink, and he asked me if I’d got myself into the position where I was actually doubting my own passion for writing. The answer was yes. Oops.

So what am I saying? I do think these books can be great, and it always feels great to find a wonderful speck of advice in there or to find you have some habits in common with successful writers. But if you’re like me and have a habit of taking things a little too personally, get on my bandwagon and promise yourself accept advice with a grain of salt – I’m sure none of the creators of these books would like to think you weren’t.

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3 responses to “When ‘how to write’ advice turns ugly

  1. I write what I like. Sometimes they show up and sometimes they don’t, but I’m still gonna have fun no matter what. I have to be serious as a doc. I always say writing isn’t a matter of life and death; it’s a lot more important than that.

    Dr. B

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    • Thanks for sharing your saying Dr. B, I like it a lot! Sometimes I get so mired down in trying to make time for writing, feeling bad for not doing it, hoping someone will like some of it, that I think I forget to have fun with it sometimes!

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  2. I enjoyed On Writing, and have a lot of time for Stephen King in general, but i didn’t really agree with everything he had to say. I think it can be interesting to take a peek at other peoples writing habits but at the end of the day people come up with their own writting patterns and Mr King has a habit of getting quantity confused with quality.
    I think part of the reason we read these books is so we can disagree with them and if they make you scrutinize the way you work that’s probably a good thing- even when you come to the conclusion that your doing nothing wrong, thank-you very much.

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