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Don’t Allow What Works for Others to Stifle Your Writing

by Brenda Mahler about a year ago in advice
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For the first time I comprehend the definition of writer’s block

Don’t Allow What Works for Others to Stifle Your Writing
Photo by Roman Mager on Unsplash

Lately, I have immersed myself in reading about writing. My mind swirls with suggestions of what to do and what not to do. The lists are endless and depending on the author sometimes contradictory. Excessive amounts of “how-to” information caused my creative juices to dry-up, shrivel, and drift away.

When writing, my body relaxes as it becomes absorbed in the process. When I place the words on paper, my mind is free to invent providing enjoyment like winning a game of scrabble or successfully filling every box of a crossword puzzle. I design connotation through word arrangements, create tension by juxtaposing meanings, impact emotions through space and punctuation, inspire curiosity by the absence of words. The power that exists in my fingertips influences readers searching for solutions or simply desiring diversions from life.

However, when I started writing to publish, the audience invaded my mind and robbed my creativity. I found myself frozen attempting to meet the expectations of others and lost my voice, my writing voice. I started generating lists of what others wrote.

Two poems and four narratives glared at me waiting titles, a prime example of how writer’s block infected my body.

After reading articles about strategies to produce the perfect headline, my head started pounding whenever I attempted to create, and ideas remained elusive. So, instead of continuing to shuffle terms, replace them with phrases, revise, edit, reform and reframe to develop the perfect title, I sat and recorded my complaints searching for a remedy.

Knowing I needed some time to decompress, I stepped away from the computer. After a long walk in the forest to clear my head, I established my first three strategies for personal success.

1. Read about writing; it is important to gather ideas and explore different approaches.

2. Embrace the suggestions that fit my current method but ignore any that conflict with my personal style.

3. Don’t allow what works for others to stifle my creativity.

Upon returning to the computer, I examined my writing. Ignoring all the suggestions and techniques of others, I simply started writing. Within moments, my head cleared as if some new and powerful antihistamine cleared the congestion in my brain. Instantly, I recognized my fourth strategy for personal success, write.

4. When all else fails, write.

Transcribe the feelings in my heart, the views of my eyes, the thoughts in my head and the world in which I live. Puke it onto paper.

When I taught English and students were stuck, we had a writing race, a five minute fast-write. The instructions simply required everyone to write nonstop until the timer rang and then count the number of words on the paper. Teens love competition! The only stipulation stated everybody’s hand must remain in motion writing words on paper.

Of course, somebody always started repeating a sentence several times; however, these seldom continued for long because they discovered copying bores the mind. And, even though most students resist admitting it, writing is fun. Within a brief time, writers stopped censoring their ideas and wrote.

I could never imagine not having something to say until the authors of “how-to” articles pointed out the numerous errors of my ways and offered better approaches. I’ve tried writing according to their suggestions, rules, recommendations, and statistically proven best strategies only to discover they don’t work for me at the beginning of my writing process.

Those ideas I stored away until revision began. If necessary, I retrieved them to add clarity and sometimes experimented to determine usefulness. I learned to not allow others’ ideas to dictate the direction of my writing.

Throughout history, writers did not become famous when they followed the formula, but because they changed the formula.

I am going to push post tonight on my writing. I am going to share my insights and descriptions — my style.

John Irving summarized my point in a statement, “Listen very carefully to the first criticism of your work. Note just what it is about your work that reviewers don’t like; it may be the only thing in your work that is original and worthwhile.”

Writers looking for inspirations and ideas are invited to visit my blog, I AM My Best!


About the author

Brenda Mahler

Stories about life that inspire emotions - mostly humor.

Lessons about writing based on my textbook, Strategies for Teaching Writing.

Poetry and essays about the of art of being human.

I write therefore, I am.

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