This blogpost was originally published as a guest post about the third volume of the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner on The Avid Reader.
You have to find your own way of doing things, by learning how others are doing theirs
There are thousands of books out there on how to write your book, how to publish it, and how to market it. There are thousands of courses too, and webinars, and Facebook groups filled with writers more than willing to tell you what does and doesn’t work.
Which is great! Because none of these steps—writing your book and then finishing it, getting it published, and then figuring out how to sell it—are easy. Quite the contrary. So it’s wonderful that we have so many resources at our disposal.
There is, however, a reason we have so many resources to choose from, and that’s because there as many ways to writing, and to publishing and marketing, as there are writers. If there had been a one-size-fits-all recipe for being a writer, we wouldn’t have so many different books and courses on how to do it.
This doesn’t mean we should ignore this vast library of resources and figure out our own best practices from scratch. There’s a reason seasoned writers share their knowledge and experiences with the rest of us: their way of doing things has brought them success and it might very well inspire us when we read about them.
Some of these writers are highly aware that, just because certain things worked for them, it doesn’t mean they’ll work for others. They understand that each of us has to find our own way. Others do present whatever they’ve learned about writing as universally applicable, and that’s when we, as readers of their work, have to remind ourselves that these writers, too, are talking about their way, not everyone’s way. Because there is no ‘everyone’s way’.
That’s the main lesson I’ve learned since I started to take my writing seriously. Other writers are there to learn from but only insofar as they help us find our own way. If it resonates, we can, and should, follow their advice, we can test their habits for ourselves, we can try out new things, no matter how long we’ve been writing for. We can be entirely eclectic and pick up only those pieces of advice that make sense to us and feel right in that particular moment. Whatever else they’re saying about writing, we can leave it. It might not be for us, or it might not be for us right now.
If this is hard for you and you find yourself wanting to follow some writer’s advice merely because it sounds really good and not because it resonates with you, here are some critical questions you can ask about this resource before making any decisions:
- What is it about this piece of advice that makes me want to follow it? What does the author promise me about following this piece of advice? Is this a realistic promise?
- Who is the author? From which social and economic position is this author speaking? Do I have that same social and economic position?
- What genre(s) does the author talk about? Do I write in the same genre(s)?
- How long have they been writing for? How many books have they published since the start of their career? Do I have the same level of experience?
- Does the author acknowledge that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach or is that exactly what they’re trying to sell?
Once you’ve answered these questions, it should be easier to step away from the advice you’ve been given and assess whether it’s the right kind of advice for you and where you are in your writing career. If no, let it go. If yes, test it, try it, and add it to your way of doing things, to your approach to writing.