Friday, January 21, 2011


After returning from my writer's group, I've realized something about myself. I've been shying away from self-help books on writing. If you've read my post on how it's affected me, you'd know what I'm talking about.

It's like hitting the reset button for my brain. I'm suddenly out of sync and I feel as if I don't know how to write again. Many thoughts of doubt fill my head, and I wonder if I was even good at it before I read the self-help writerly book.

*le SIGH*

At my group, we discussed A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation. They mentioned how they thought it would be a stiff lecture on how-tos, but that it wasn't that at all. The book is like a reference full of tips and techniques.

I perked. Now that, I can do!

I've recently concluded that reading a wide array of self-help books is like a spread of delicious foods at an all-you-can-eat buffet. You know what you like and what you don't like. What makes you gain weight and what helps you look great. I feel the same applies to what we ingest into our eager writerly minds. You know what feels best, or what works for you and what doesn't. Take what you need and want and leave the rest.

The rules are there to flavor our work, not to stifle our creativity. This is what makes us great writers.

What is your process on digesting new rules for your writing?


  1. Great advice! I completely agree with taking what you need and want, and leaving the rest, but will admit it took me awhile to realize that it was OKAY to leave the rest. I felt like I had to listen to what everybody was saying, and boy, that got overwhelming and confusing after awhile.

  2. I agree, it took me a while to learn that while the person writing the technique book might be great, it didn't automatically mean every idea they had would suit my story! These days I keep my story in mind as I read, and mentally try new ideas and techniques on for size as I go. I keep what's flattering and toss the rest!

  3. I am a bit like you were. I shy away from it. too much to ingest and there is always something I am NOT doing that I should be. Maybe I should get over that too.

  4. so far, my style has been accepted by my readers, but if an editor says, "Too many em dashes or ellipses...or anything-I'll edit. :)

  5. I do like your buffet analogy!! How true! Learning any skill means hard work and effort and the books and manuals and how to's are there to guide and help you master the skill rather than inhibit your creative processes!!

    Take care

  6. I have like 12 books on writing, maybe have read 4. But I am planning to work through them soon (yeah, right).
    My philosophy is "learn, apply" where I spend some time learning, then write without dealing with the learning thing.

  7. I love what you said about our creativity being stifled, because I have found that to be true with some books and even some classes I've taken.

    Must. Not. Let. That. Happen!

    Great post! Thanks, Elizabeth!

  8. I'm the complete opposite. I am a writing book junky. I love to learn about process. Like you said though it can stifle creativity. There is something else it can do to. It can be a distraction when you really should simply be writing. Kind of like blogging. It's all about balance. Right? Glad I found your blog.

  9. Jennifer, I feel that way still. I'm just realizing that it IS okay to take what works for me. Thanks for your comment! :)

    Amie, that's great that you can do that. I'm just figuring what works for me without become obsessed with EVERY technique taught. Ugh! :C

    Tabitha, there's so much out there to learn, and balancing it all in (as Pam mentioned!) is a tricky skill. I have yet to find mine. :/

    Em-Musing--how smart you are! It simplifies things, doesn't it? I'm excited to be where you are, to have my own editor. *GRIN*

    Jennifer, thank you! <3

    Andrew, I can get obsessive with applying everything I've learned and then become frustrated if I feel I'm not doing it right. Ugh...

    Hi, Shari! I don't like when that happens. I really LOVE being a writer, I have to admit, it can be harder than being a mom.

    Pam! You've got me--so right you are when you said blogging. I love networking that it eats away at my writing time. You are SO right about balance. Yes, balance! Thanks for following! :D

  10. Might have to check that one out. "Save the Cat" gave me some good ideas.

  11. The only rule I absolutely have to follow is that it has to make sense to the reader. If the reader trusts in me as an author, then I can experiment around with style.

  12. Alex, sounds intriguing, I'll have to check that one out, thanks!

    Jeffrey, that makes sense. I like that. I feel that the only way we can know if our stuff makes sense to the readers is if we let others crit, it. Thanks for your comment! :)

  13. Elizabeth - Writing is creative. I should probably read more self-help books. LOL I've read 2. Save the Cat is one. I've really enjoyed it. The idea of taking what works and leaving the rest is a great idea.

    Also, I have an award for you! =D

  14. I enjoy dipping into self help books but have to be in a certain frame of mind to get anything out of them. LOVE THE PIC!

  15. RaShelle, Save the Cat sounds interesting! I'll check it out. Thanks for the award. :)

    KB--thank you! :D


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