Having been to my share of “Writing 101” panels at conventions over the years, I have noticed an odd trend, a question from (I assume) aspiring writers that runs something like this: “What are your writing habits?” In other words, how many words a day, do you write longhand first and then transcribe, do you listen to music while you write, do you write in the morning or at night…? I used to be interested in the answer myself, until I finally asked myself, after some repetitions: “Why? What difference does it make?”
Were this asked in general interviews, or autograph sessions, or like situations (which it is), I would understand. For all that there is nothing special about writing–it’s just somebody working at that which he does well, just like teaching math or prosecuting a lawsuit–there is still that air of mystery which pervades all of the arts: Those whose talents do not lie in that direction are in awe of those whose talents do, and who succeed thereat, are treated with respect and sometimes reverence by those who appreciate those talents, i.e., their fans.
That being said, I don’t understand why this question keeps coming from other writers, or even would-be writers. Because how Stephen King keeps his desk,* or when John Scalzi writes, or how many words George RR Martin puts down in a day,** has no effect at all on how successful I am as a writer. No matter how much I know about these people, it’s not going to make me better; the only way to get better is to write. And that’s true if you’re a neopro or pre-published (or Stephen King).
It’s not a crime, of course, to want to emulate your heroes, but you’d get more value emulating the qualities that contribute to their greatness. And even then, everyone is different. Even a common requirement like daily word count varies tremendously among writers.
So in the end, it all comes down to the same thing: Be yourself. Blaze your own trail. Let others ask you your habits if they think it’ll help them.
*Actually, I’ve read King’s On Writing, and I recommend it.
**Yes, I know, the answer is “not enough.” ETA: However, Scalzi just published this column in the LA Times, addressing that same question.
Read Full Post »