I’ve come to hate this hashtag. And I’m afraid to say that I have used it in the past. Urgh.
I know it’s ridiculous to generate an emotional reaction towards something as intangible as a hashtag, but this one just seems to sum up what I think is wrong with the approach that some writers have towards writing.
You see, the other day I got chatting with a very nice lady just before our monthly Manchester Spec-Fic writers’ group meeting. First of all, I’m sorry that we didn’t swap names, so Nice Lady will have to do. Anyway, a short while into the conversation Nice Lady gave me the usual ‘Oh, you’re a writer, I’ve always thought about doing that’ at which point I applied the standard caveat ‘I’m not sure I’m actually a writer’ before I responded with my also-fairly-standard ‘Well, just do it, sit down, get writing’.
We talked about the difficulty in having the confidence to get started and I suggested that a writing group might help, though this could depend on whether the group and writer just happened to click, and that groups can sometimes cause more harm than good. I also suggested an evening class, such as the rather excellent courses run locally by the Omniversity in association with Comma Press at MadLab. Now, I’ve just had a quick look on the Omniversity website and it seems that they’re not running any right now, though there is a course in Bird Taxidermy and another in Robot Army Building which are both likely to come in handy at some point.
The advice I offered to Nice Lady was to be wary of advice.
I see writers dropping word counts and #AmWriting tags on various social networking sites. I also see writers offering the advice to ‘write something, anything, every day!’ even specifying a minimum word count, usually 1000 words. Well, if that works for them, fine, perhaps it’s part of their routine to get motivated. Now I’m sure this wasn’t the original intent, but in my experience those #AmWriting tags can be quite demotivating for a lot of new writers. I’d suggest that new writers don’t just copy the behaviour as proof that they’re now a writer without, well, without writing much of anything at all. Now, just to be clear, everyone is obviously free to hashtag away; what I’m suggesting is that new writers might want to question whether to pay any attention to these hashtags (or not) in the first place.
What I’d like to see is more advice suggesting that new writers to be honest with themselves, that they should maintain objectivity about their writing and their productivity.
Some writers benefit from a rigid routine. They need to aim at a specific word count per day, a time and place to write, favourite pens and/or underpants etc. Other writers become stifled under such a regime. They get block, give up. Even worse, in my opinion, are the writers who sit down every day to spam out a thousand words of trash and consider the job done.
I’d suggest that some writers don’t benefit from trying to force themselves to write each and every day. But are you that kind of writer? Are you being honest with yourself? Maybe you do need a routine after all? You say you have writers’ block? You say that writers’ block doesn’t actually exist? Really? You’re writing 1000 words a day, but are you actually writing anything? Perhaps you should take a break for a day or two or six per week?
Today I wrote some words. No, not this blog post, that doesn’t count. I can’t remember the last time I totted up my daily word count, though I do keep an eye on the total word count for short stories, novel chapters, overall novel length. Yesterday and the day before that I wrote some other words. Before that, not so many. None, in fact, for the best part of two months.
I don’t usually write every day, but I did beat myself up a bit about that because, well, I guess I knew I was slacking. Work / life balance and all that. Too many hobbies. I did have a few rather excellent adventures.
Write. Be honest with yourself. Don’t forget to live.