It is a challenge to sit and think not on writing as a product, a completed manuscript, poem, or prose piece, but as a process in and of itself. Countless have tried to lay out a “formula” or mode which they believe all can use to create a great piece of writing. Many emphasize the process and our own place within it- Audre Lorde has said much about writing and how it can be used to both build connections and strengthen community, but also to challenge those attempting to silence us. As she states in “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power”:
The sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic, or intellectual, forms a bridge between the sharers which can be the basis for understanding much of what is not shared between them, and lessens the threat of their difference.
In this sense, she rightfully locates the power within this mode of expression. To write is to be vulnerable and very much to be brave. To write is to let others know your very unique world view, and to challenge others to see the world in a different light and perhaps find common ground while doing so.
A story in one’s mind can feel like something that simply must be released into the world, and yet sometimes it is easy to feel overwhelmed or at a loss as to how to release and articulate our thoughts and ideas. A lot of writers will give advice that contradicts that which is said by other equally respected authors- and neither writer is wrong. The purpose of this article is to suggest that the “right” way to write is one that works for you personally. It is for this very reason that several conflicting pieces of advice have been presented below. Here are some tactics and suggestions that have worked for published authors. Read through, ruminate, and hopefully one (or several!) will resonate with you and inspire you to start sharing!
Alice Walker suggests that you set aside time and space “as if you were going to have someone come to tea.”
While many writers suggest that one should be disciplined and train themselves to sit at a desk and write something every day, Walker has a more patient and easygoing approach. While still advocating for the allocation of time for writing, the notion of framing this as though you are waiting for a friend may make it feel like less of a chore and keep your mind open and at ease.
Cherie Dimaline, as advised by Lee Maracle: “Don’t throw anything out!”
Dimaline shares that Maracle once advised her that everything we write has intention and purpose. Even if you don’t use an idea or thought now, there is still a reason you felt the need to express it. So save it, and revisit it later.
Salman Rushdie has suggested that one trick of good writers in the past is that they “worked close to the bull, like matadors, had played complex games with autobiography, and yet their creations were more interesting than themselves.”
This tip plays with the oft-cited advice to “write what you know.” Rushdie suggests that there can be a level of interplay between yourself and your characters- sometimes they will have elements of yourself, sometimes they will be an “anti-you.” This can be a fun concept to play with.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a strong supporter of using one’s life- particularly, one’s childhood experiences- as inspiration. And don’t be afraid to infuse them with a little magic.
Garcia Marquez is famous for his insertion of magic and the fantastical into his literature, but he cites storytelling sessions with his grandmother as being a big motivating factor for his writing, and something that he revisits again and again.
Kazuo Ishiguro suggests that emotions, not morals, should be the crux of your writing.
Kazuo Ishiguro’s advice on Lithub is proof that there is no “right way” to write. Ishiguro declares full disdain for the aforementioned “write what you know” advice that functions as a common starting ground for many writers, stating that it is “the reverse of firing the imagination and potential of writer.” Ishiguro furthermore says that for him, it’s important to write emotion-centred pieces as opposed to moral-based ones.
Ivan Coyote uses the “rock pile” method.
Coyote states that often in their writing, they have a tendency to scribble out and pile up all of the ideas and thoughts in their head, and use this as a sort of idea bank. This ‘rock pile’ should be revisited often, and the ideas and tidbits that derive from it can fit together to build something larger.
The goal in writing this piece is that it will trigger something in you- that it will inspire, that it will act as a jumping off point or that it will simply encourage you to start exploring the ideas, thoughts and stories that are already in your head waiting to be shared, in a way that makes sense for you. Your writing style is as unique as you are. Please feel free to add your own advice and writing tips in the comments section, and have fun!