Four Pieces of Writing Advice to Ignore
With so much advice out there for you it’s hard for you to pick which parts to listen to and which parts to ignore. Luckily, for you, I’ve come up with four pieces of advice that I have heard far too many times. All of which you should ignore.
1. No Mess
You’ll find people telling you to keep your workstation clean, tidy, and organised so that your mind is free from distraction. That works for some. My desk is as cluttered as my mind. My mind works best when in the middle of chaos, my desk reflects that. But that’s me—do what works best for you. If you don’t have a desk or you use a laptop then work wherever you feel comfortable. Comfort is the key.
2. No Distractions
Distractions really aren’t the devil that most people say that they are. They’re just distractions. Some things are unavoidable—if you have kids, for instance, you can’t say, “Change your nappy yourself, I’m busy writing.” But if you’re finding yourself checking Facebook every five minutes, something’s not going right. You’re doing that because your mind isn’t focused on what you should be doing. When you’re focused you’ll work regardless of anything else and you’ll keep working until you’re done. This could be a sentence, a paragraph or pages of writing. You can’t be distracted by something that your mind is focused on. As an analogy, if you’re having sex with the person of your dreams, and it’s more than you ever dreamed it could be, you’re not going to stop to see what Jim and Bob have posted to Facebook in the last thirty seconds. Distractions aren’t the problem, you are.
3. No Noise
Silence doesn’t work for me. It makes my mind wander and it’s a challenge to get started. When I’m in the zone I don’t care if there’s silence, a rock band playing a foot away from me, or the apocalypse is happening outside my window. I’ll work. But to get started I need a bit of noise to get me going. I have a few playlists on my computer that I like or I have a YouTube playlist that I turn on in the background. If you like a bit of noise, make sure you set up a playlist that lasts a little while. What you don’t want to happen is you’re close to getting in the zone and you run out of songs or videos, whichever your choice is. Make sure it’s at least half an hour, or set it up to auto repeat. If you like silence, don’t do that but headphones have gotten very good at shutting out the noise of the world. Put in a pair and enjoy the peace and quiet.
4. No Individuality
This is a bit weird but it’s something most people don’t think about—the formatting of your document. It’s generally considered good practice to have a standard format for your work. Publishers have specific requirements for submissions, or they use the generic standard: Times New Roman, size 12 font, double-spaced lines. I’ve grow accustomed to writing in that format but I don’t like it. Personally, I like Arial, size 10 with one-and-a-half-spaced lines. It looks pretty. If I’m doing a short story or an essay or something small, I’ll write in the standard, but if I’m working on a big project I’ll do it in my pretty format, then change it afterwards. You want to write in Notepad because you like it? Do it and sort it out later. It’s not something that people think about often, but it is something to consider.
I’m not telling you that you must do your writing in one way or another, or that some things won’t work for you. You need to figure out what works for you. You won’t be able to find a magic formula that works. All you can do is keep trying until you find what suits you. As long as you’re working in an environment that makes you happy, that makes you comfortable, the rest will come.
© 2016 David Chitty
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
David Chitty was born and raised in Thanet in the 90s. He devotes most of his energies to writing fantasy fiction novels.