Thursday, July 26, 2012

NaNaNaNaNaNaNaNaNaNaNa I Can't Hear You

Okay, guys, I have a confession.  I don't read books on how to write.  I quickly flip past blog posts that give any indication they're going to tell me how to write.  And I'm sure if I ever met other writers in person, if they started to talk about how to write, I'd stick my fingers in my ears and say 'NaNaNaNaNaNa I Can't Hear You'.

It's not that I think I already know everything there is to know about writing.  Gads, that would be stupid of me.  I know I don't.  But I also know from experience that any advice I see or hear about how to write completely derails me.

I read something like that and one of two things happens: 1) I start to implement their advice to the exclusion of my own common sense and writing voice.  2) I begin to doubt my own writing ability.

Eons ago, I was reading a Writers' Digest article about inserting brand names into your writing to make it more connectable to your readers.  You know, instead of saying 'shoes' say 'Nike'.  The next time I sat down to write, my passages were so filled with product identifiers, you would've thought I was a PR person for every brand name out there.  "She grabbed her Adidas and ran across the Pergo floor to grab her Gucci bag. Hopping into her BMW, she raced toward McDonald's for an Egg McMuffin before getting gas at the Citgo..."  Bleh. 

Can you say 'OVERKILL'?  I knew you could.  (And yeah, that sentence sucks anyway, but you get the gist.)

Somewhat more recently but still years ago, I picked up a 'how to' book on writing.  (I won't name it here because it really is an excellent book and I don't want you to think it was the book that did this to me.)  I got about three chapters in before my self-esteem was all shriveled up and dessicated like a grape left in the desert.  There was no way in hell I was going to be able to implement any of the advice this wonderful, intelligent person was offering, so why bother to try.  I was hack who didn't even deserve to have other people's books in my house.

Yeah, I never finished that book and I haven't touched one since.

I hit the same problem - albeit on a smaller scale - when I stumble across 'how to' blog posts.  So, I've learned to avoid them.  (Okay, so maybe I run screaming in the other direction...)  It's not that I don't want to learn.  It's just that I don't process knowledge that way.  I have to come upon it slowly, on my own.  Yeah, it's like re-inventing the wheel, but it's better than the alternative - which is being so afraid the wheel's going to run me over that I never try to invent it in the first place.

If that makes any sense.

So, I won't ever be able to discuss 'On Writing' with you.  I can't give you hints on which are the best blogs to garner information on the hows of this business.  And no matter how much I might love you, if you write a brilliant post on how to do any of this, I won't be stopping by.  Sorry.

And now for the million dollar question: Is there anybody else out there afflicted with this advice aversion malady, or is it just me?


  1. Wow, this post has kind of blown my excuse for a mind.

    I LOVE "how to" writing books. In general I'm a big fan of "how to" books of any kind.

    I read a lot about how to write and usually end up with a nugget or two that I actually find useful in some things and absolutely nothing in others, but I still keep looking for what can help me become a better writer. I also find I learn a lot from critiques (even when I don't necessarily agree with what's been said) because they force me to look at my work
    with a different perspective.

  2. Mind blowing is all part of the service we provide here at Sanderson Inc. ;o) And yeah, I love critiques. Show me how to do something or point out where I went wrong, and I learn. Tell me how to do something in an abstract, totally 'non-specific to me' way and I freak out.

  3. I think I must have the opposite problem: I'm kinda addicted to books on craft and probably spend too much time reading them!

  4. Well, I don't have quite the same problem as you, but I don't read "how to" books either. Quite frankly, I get so bored I always end up falling asleep while reading them. Sure I'll read small blog posts on certain things, but I don't read how to format the plot points in your novel, or how you need this software program to organize your thoughts etc... That just isn't me. I'm old school that way. I learn from my mistakes, I read a lot to see what works and what doesn't, and I just keep writing. =)

  5. I've read a bunch of how-to books, but none of them truly dictate how I write. I also skim them like crazy so likely I've missed all the salient points!

    You just do what you do. You'll be fine!

  6. I have plenty of "How to" books, and the only one I read from cover to cover was "On Writing" by Stephen King.

    I only use them if I get stuck and need to see how others do it. Doesn't mean that's how I'll do it. I take what works for me.

    But the best (and first) "How to" book I read (skimmed) was a "How Not To" book. It's all tongue in cheek (sort of), but showed me what I should stay away from and really opened my eyes.

    And if you want the title of that book, let me know. It will take some diggin' on my part to find it!

  7. I hear everything you're saying and pretty much agree with you. While I'm not a fan of "how to" books, I do love reading about how other writers write, just to see if there's anything to be learned from their process. Like Stephen King's ON WRITING - definitely not a how-to book, but more like a "How I Do It" book. Which was cool, I learned a lot from it.

  8. I might have it subconsciously. I wrote my first full ms (and several stutter-starts) before I studied the craft well. Since I've read some how-to's - no new complete books. Hmm. . .that's not good. ;)

  9. Yours is an interesting take on writing how tos.
    I'd never thought of them this way.
    I seem to be able to read information and take what I need and leave the rest right there in the book. Ummm. This has at least got me thinking about the subject. I believe we develop on our own, without aid most of the time.
    I've been writing for 25+ years and I'm still learning.
    Thanks for giving me food for thought. While my blog is called Writing: the ups and downs it's mostly about my life which is up and down up and down, dizzying sometmes. Come see me. I promise not to try to teach you how to write!!!