Like most other writers, I’m a bit of a sponge when it comes to writing advice. After all, it’s difficult to avoid. Wherever you travel on the internet, at some point as a writer you’re going to end up at some kind of writerly place, and you’re going to find writing advice coming at you from all directions. Seems like everybody out there is an expert on writing. Everybody can tell you how to write.
One of those pieces of advice that’s stuck with me is an interesting one. I can’t remember the exact source. It might have been from Hemingway (a lot of these writing tips seem to come from Hemingway – that is if they don’t come from Stephen King who seems to be the ultimate source of all wisdom). Then again, it might not have. I’m kind of vague on the details.
Anyway, this advice in a nutshell is based around the idea that you should set yourself a fixed number of words per day and stop as soon as you reach them. Even if you’re really inspired. Even if you have ideas poring out of every place ideas pore out of. You should not keep going. You should stop once you reach that word limit.
The logic behind this seems pretty sound. It means that you still have ideas in reserve, so when you come back the next day, you’ll be able to get going without delay. No writers block for you, just smooth sailing ahead. Seems inarguable, doesn’t it. Except I don’t think I’ll ever follow it. I don’t think it would work for me.
Firstly, the idea of stopping when I’m at my most inspired seems terribly inadvisable. What if I lose that inspiration? What if those ideas fade away, and the next time I get to the computer, I’m spent. No, far better to get the ideas down when I have them. I don’t like taking the risk that they won’t be there when I need them.
Secondly, I don’t have a problem writing till I’m out of ideas. And there’s a simple reason why. I’ve always found the best ideas come to me when I’m away from the computer. When I’m actually sitting down and writing, I find it tremendously difficult to come up with ideas. Getting words down on a page is hard work. It requires concentration. But once I give myself some time and space, my mind starts to clear and I find the ideas flowing freely. Getting away from the screen is always a big part of the writing process.
So that’s me. Willfully unwilling to take advice. But usually for a good reason.
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