Confession: Sometimes reading books about how to write makes me feel like I am strapped to an iron chair in a locked closet that is full of darkness and spiders, with nothing to eat but dust. And those spiders, I guess.
What I'm trying, but not really succeeding, to say is: too much help is sometimes no help at all.
Since I often turn to writing books the way a person who is making dinner might turn to a cookbook, I often fail to use inspiration. As with anything, there is a balance. Writing books can be helpful, but applied too rigidly, will hurt you.
Probably the best advice I’ve received from the array of writing books I’ve read over the years is some form of “just keep writing”. There is also “You have to be persistent”, or even “butt in chair time”. A close companion to this that I hear less often is, “believe in yourself”. I went to a writer’s conference once where James Dashner was asked how he did it and he kind of shrugged, feeling a little silly perhaps, and said, “I don’t know how I do it, I just go by instinct.” This is the answer that really helps us open the door, after all is said and done. This is what calls to inspiration, even if inspiration only graces us with her presence occasionally. Though she might not come every time we open the door, we have to open the door so that when she does come, we will be ready.
And inspiration likes doors that are open wide.
Shakti Gawain said, “We will discover the nature of our own particular genius when we stop trying to conform to our own or other peoples’ models, learn to be ourselves, and allow our natural channel to open.” Real help is anything that encourages you to be creative, even and especially if that creativity requires you to break rules.
We all have an inner compass. We must learn to trust it. Writing is an act of faith, and when you act in faith, you set things in motion. Don’t fall into the temptation to overthink it. Easy really does do it, eventually—if you are persistent.
“We learn to do something by doing it. There is no other way.” John Holt