I’ve read oodles of self-help books on writing — some by writer’s I know like Stephen King and others by experienced teachers. I try out their techniques, like attempting the latest fad diet plan, and each one fails to deliver.
The reason is that the methods they extol don’t always jive with my style of writing.
This can be exceedingly frustrating.
We are all different and unique. Artists doubly so. Those writers penning the self help books understand something fundamental — they listen to how their inner artist prefers to create.
Ernest Hemingway (along with Virginia Woolf and Lewis Carroll) all preferred to write standing up. Thomas Wolfe was so tall that he wrote longhand on top of the refrigerator. He started at midnight (fueled by copious amounts of tea and coffee) and continued until dawn (finally falling asleep around eleven am).
Some writers prefer to never leave the bed in the first place. Truman Capote claimed he was a “horizontal author”, only able to produce lying down. Other bed-writers included Mark Twain, Woody Allen, and Marcel Proust.
Other writers eschewed the idea of the page as the unit of creation. Vladimir Nabokov penned all his novels on index cards, kept organized in boxes. This allowed him to write scenes non-sequentially. He even kept some cards beneath his pillow should inspiration strike in the middle of the night.
Author Dan Brown (of Da Vinci Code fame) has some interesting techniques for writer’s block. He would practice inversion therapy (hanging upside down) as a way to release thoughts. He would also work with an hourglass. When time was up, he put the manuscript aside to do some calisthenics (push ups and sit ups).
Trouble getting those pages out. Try Victor Hugo’s solution. He had his servant hide all his clothes so that he couldn’t leave the house, thus forcing him to finish the manuscript.
What each writer needs is to find the technique that works for them. Are you someone who creates best in short bursts or do you prefer marathon sessions? Are you a plodder, who plots things out or do you hurl words at the page like a literary Jackson Pollock painting?
Keep track of when you are the most productive and when you aren’t. See if you can nail down the particulars of your style of creation. We can’t all have a perfect writing environment, but we can at least learn what our brain prefers.
Listen to your inner artist. What do they want? The better we understand ourselves, the more we can create.