W3 Wise Words on Writing

W3 is a monthly newsletter for writers on a variety of topics from technique to the psychology of writing. It appears by the 15th of each month. More information is available from www.wisewordsonwriting.com

Monday, May 16, 2005

No. 27 Writing Habits

The Writing Process (with apologies to Dr. Seuss)
I can write in a carI can write by a fire*
I can write in a boat
I can write on a float
I can write on a table
I can write when I'm able.
I can write anywhere
*with my Boston accent fire, fah rhymes with car, cah

Many of my writing students ask if they should write the complete work then edit, or edit as they go along. They want to know should they create biographies of their characters before starting or invent them as they develop the work. Should a writer do the first draft by hand then type into the computer or go directly to the computer? Should they have fixed writing hours or not? Is it important to write daily or not? The answer is yes.

Confusing? Yup. As a collector of how-to-write books, all of which I have read, the amount of contradictory advice is only limited to the number of books I own. Does this mean that all writing advice should be disregarded? Not at all - if so I'd give up writing this newsletter.
When I talk to successful writers about their working habits, I have discovered they are as varied as their personalities. Some are extremely disciplined setting aside a time each day to write. Others cram writing time around other responsibilities. If any common factor exists, it is their extreme seriousness about their work.

Many things in this world can be standardized, but standardized creativity is an oxymoron.
The secret is to find what works best for you and throw away any guilt or inferiority that you are disregarding the advice of Best Selling Author X. Remember Jeffrey Archer once told would-be writers the only way they can be successful is to quit their jobs and write full time. Tell that to a single mom trying to finish her first book.

Does that mean the advice of Best Selling Author X is worthless? Absolutely not. Try their methods, but adapt them to your needs. Testing allows us to develop new skills.

So to continue the poem…
I can write on my head,
I can write in bed,I can write as I eat,
I can write on my feet,
I can write with ink
I can write in a sink,
I can write everywhere

What is important is to find what works for you and then have the confidence to do it as well as the wisdom to know when it needs to be changed. And do it without guilt.

The dichotomy of this topic is if you follow my advice, you will disregard my advice if it doesn't work for you. Do it with my blessing.


"I merely took the energy it took to pout and wrote some blues."Duke Ellington.

"Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time... The wait is simply too long."Leonard Bernstein

Note: I know the first two quotes are about music, but writing music and writing words are variations of the creative process.

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."Henry David Thoreau

Note: I know this is often quoted, but whenever I realise the crowd went in the other direction, I realise that it is okay if I don't follow.

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it." Jesse Stuart

"I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. "Joan Didion

"A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. "Thomas Mann

For the next few weeks keep track of HOW you write, WHAT you write, WHAT HAMPERS your writing, WHAT WORKS with your writing. Then look it over to determine any patterns that will help you plan your writing in the future.

One of the purposes of W3 is to share information between writers. Because we are an international publication, we welcome information from all continents.

Kwickee Bitesize seeks short articles and fiction. No registration fees or charges to writers. When work is downloaded by customers paying to view on mobile phones or PC's you'll receive royalties. Editors and Sub-Editors also needed and paid on a royalty basis. Read guidelines etc.at www.kwickee.com/

A person who happened on my website submitted this thinking my readers would find it interesting. It's a place to show your work. www.eliteskills.com/
Any artist who would like to rent art studio space or to give courses in Argelès-sur-mer, France, www.argeles-sur-mer.com/ email Christine at argeles.hostalet@wanadoo.fr / The studio is located about five minutes from the hotel. Argelès is a French-Catalan village on the Mediterranean less than hour's drive from the Spanish border. I find it a terrific place to work, but am prejudice since I have had my nest here for 17 years and divide my time between here and Geneva.

Spelling: W3 uses American spelling. The differences in the usage of English from country to country, is fascinating. Once I worked in office, with American, English, South Africans, Australians and Swiss who learned either American-English or English-English. We often needed translators from English to English.

When it was my turn to make the tea, I made it the English way, heating the pot, measuring the right amount of leaves, then adding the water. We all took our tea seriously, that was something we never disagreed on. "I've left it to steep," I said to the room where we had all gathered. A couple of blank stares.

"You mean draw," someone said. "Steep is an incline."

"Draw is what artists do," someone else said.

"Set, the tea is setting," another person said.

By that time the tea was ready (a word we agreed on), we had no problem on agreeing to drink it.

We had tons of this type of conversation describing tights-stockings-pantyhose-legwarmers, or shops vs. stores, chemists-apothecaries-druggists-pharmacies, parking garages vs. car parks (I suspect the latter have smaller spaces due to smaller cars) the American habit of changing nouns to verbs as in to party and to charge it.

English is such a rich language to write in.

The same company had the habit of opening a bottle of champagne for whatever good news came about. Maybe because champagne is a French word, we never debated that.


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