June 26th, 2017
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Michele Dunaway | What works for me…

Might not work for you. It’s a concept I’ve been mulling lately as I get ready to teach another year of school, where I have to individualize learning to best reach all my students. I was thinking about this concept as I read an article in a writing magazine that said, “write every day, even if it’s for 20 minutes” and also gave other such advice as “keep a journal”.

It’s great advice, sure. But I don’t do either and I’m a published author of 21 novels. I write in big spurts, and then will go weeks and sometimes months without writing a thing. That “20 minutes” the author advises is spent doing all those things I didn’t do during that intense focus on writing.

But that’s me. My big on and off spurts are how I balance and prioritize my time, and that’s what I’ve learned works best for my life. During the school year my priority is on my family and my teaching job. Writing is third. Over the summer, I can easily make writing number two and devote 40+ hours a week to my craft.

To me, writing is like dieting. For some, Jenny Craig works. For others, it’s South Beach. For someone else it’s Weight Watchers. Others are naturally skinny and don’t need to do a darn thing. The same holds true for writing. There are plotsters, pantsters, and there are those who create scrapbooks, those who make scrapbooks, those who interview their characters, those who enter contests, those who sell the first time…the list goes on. Everyone is different, which is logical. As each writer should have a unique, individual voice, each writer will have his or her own individual writing style and system, that, through trial and error works for him or her.

This system, or process, is personal. I see too many writers get bogged down in the “how” they should be writing and trying to follow some system or formula and thus they lose the actual writing. If something isn’t working after a few tries, perhaps it isn’t for you. Just because it works for NYT best selling author or your critique partner doesn’t mean that the approach is perfect for everyone. I know writers who get up at 4 AM to create before their family wakes. I’d die if I had to get up at 4 AM. When my alarm goes off at 5:25 for work, it’s too soon. I know writers who run every chapter by a critique partner, and there are many writers like me who do that only on rare occasions.

Don’t be afraid to do some personal assessing and figure out what works best for you. Try new things and techniques, but don’t lose faith in your abilities or talent if they fail to work. Remember, what works for one person doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. So reassess and find something new. Writing should be a happy time—a creative and pleasurable escape into your mind. So just like trusting your own inner voice with your story, don’t be afraid to take advice, but don’t be afraid to trust your gut if it tells you that advice isn’t for you. After all, just as it’s your story, it’s your process. There is no one writing process answer for everyone except for passion, persistence and putting your fingers to the keys.

 

 

Comments

5 comments posted.

Re: Michele Dunaway | What works for me…

I enjoyed working on The Artist's Way By Julie Cameron years ago for writer's block. Well, I didn't have a block, but the exercises and stories of field trips were fun. I have pen and paper available everywhere, so when the muse strikes, I'm prepared. Learning how others get their stories out helps me choose which process to borrow for my own. The key to writing is to write it down.
(Alyson Widen 1:16pm August 3, 2009)

I've yet to find "what works" for me. Writing seems to be more spur of the moment and I am only able to write as the urge strikes.
(LuAnn Morgan 2:13pm August 3, 2009)

Your advice to the writer to "figure out what works best for you" should be a sticky note on the keyboard. Thanks for the reminder. I needed it.
(Barbara Scott 3:14pm August 3, 2009)

I just finished reading Save the Cat by Blake Snyder and found that by hit or miss, I'd come around to writing as he suggests in his book. Wish it hadn't take me quite so long to figure it out, but now I'm hoping I'll get a bit speedier.
(Kathryn Albright 6:35pm August 3, 2009)

Similar to the way you try to individualize the information for your students writers have different learning and writing styles and shouldn't be forced to all use the same method. How is that for one 'short' sentence? :>)
(Karin Tillotson 8:51pm August 3, 2009)

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