Writ In Stone

So-called rules for writers aren’t absolute—stop acting as if they were

If you read much about writing you’ll come across a few to-do’s. Such rules are intended to motivate and help writers create their best content, get over their blocks, and simply produce better more often.

Here are some of the most common ones I see*:

  • write every day
  • have a minimum word count goal per day
  • write before you do anything else
  • don’t wait for a creative moment or burst, know that creativity comes from the grind

Yet I’ve been sitting here all week without writing a word. Why?

You can’t force it

Life happens. Busyness occurs. Time is finite. And writing can be tough.

With all of these factors in play you must know when to wait it out and when to press forward. The determinate isn’t the factors in front of you or around you, but the factors within you.

This week, for instance, was extra busy for me. Busyness isn’t what killed my ability to write, though. I’m always incredibly busy.

The difference is the kind of busy I endured this week. It was of a sort that took much more creative energy from me than a usually busy week would. As a result, I had no time to write until after I was already emptied out for the day.

And writing on fumes is lame. There’s no joy in it—for the author or the audience.

If a piece is important then you simply can’t force it into existence. Much like delivering a baby, it’ll come when it’s ready. Any preemptive measures should only be undertaken in the event of an emergency.

Otherwise, leave it be.

You can’t fake it

If you find yourself in this emptied situation you can try anyway, right?

Sure, you can try to pull something out of your ass. For all but the best of us, though, it’ll likely be a handful of shit.

I attempted this approach earlier in the week. I could’ve gotten away with what I wrote, I think. One of my bona fide skills is precisely “Pulling Things From My Ass.” Go check out my LinkedIn to confirm.

But my subject matter deserved much more than I was able to give it. The subject matter I was writing on is a dense and divided topic that has huge import in our current cultural climate. If, as my Medium profile says, I aim to “make a dent” in the world, I’d better make sure I’m willing to put in the requisite work to get the job done—including the work of waiting.

The work of patient perseverance is one of the hardest parts of the work at hand. And don’t let anyone tell you that it isn’t actual work. Pony up and do the hard work of allowing the ideas to steep as necessary.

You can’t focus on it

Here’s the kicker and exactly where I find myself at this very moment: If you’ve realized you can’t force it and you acknowledge that you can’t do it justice if you fake it, then the next step is to make sure to not focus on it.

That’s not to say you can’t or shouldn’t be thinking on the piece’s content. I’m not implying you have to let it go entirely by any means.

But you can’t focus on the block. You can’t stare at the obstacle. You can’t be fixated on what you haven’t done.

Sometimes you have all the tinder assembled and everything is ready to go—but the spark is nowhere to be found. And that’s okay.

You have permission to not be putting out amazing content every time you sit down. And you have permission to leave the seat. Come back to it later.

Writing is a process, not an event.

Your mileage may vary

Finally, this may be all a bunch of garbage added to the pile of bulletproof principles on writing.

The problem with the rules for writers is that they, just like the way we write, can vary wildly person to person. And likely will.Not everyone shares the same writing voice. Not everyone will share the same general rules.

The only rules that matter are the ones that you take the necessary time to figure out work for you. It takes a lot of time to find your niche and discover your voice. Don’t imagine it won’t take a bit of time to learn what works best for you to use it to its fullest.

None of these or any others are set in stone and your writing will sink like one if you force them on your voice and process.

*These are all great pieces of advice that writers certainly should attempt to follow at times and during certain seasons. But it’s ultimately an issue of following the spirit of the law here. Namely, don’t be a bum and hope to write very well. Rather, put your nose to the proverbial grindstone with the aid of habits and processes.

About the author

Hi there, my name is John. I love having conversations. My posts are an attempt to start some of them. Please join in the conversation via commenting on this article or recommending it. Thanks for reading!

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