There are many—many—brilliant books out there on how to write. Books that give you a thorough understanding of plot and pacing. Instructions on how to craft memorable characters. And if a book isn’t your speed, I can point you to the blogs of several great writers who regularly post on the subject. These very generous souls are more than happy to share the ins and outs of how they write and offer tips that could help beginning writers down the right path.
I can’t do that. I don’t enjoy it. Not even a little bit.
I don’t like to wax philosophical about my process. I don’t like to get into long conversations about craft. Sometimes I do it. Sometimes it’s part of my job. I grit my teeth, take a deep breath, and do it. But it’s hard.
My writing process is just that. Mine. They say that writing is a solitary endeavor. It is. And, in my eyes, it’s also intensely intimate. Talking craft, talking process… I might as well just drop my drawers and run around stark naked. I eschew elitists who think that authors need to peek out saucily from behind a veil of mysteriousness. And I worry that expressing my dislike for these discussions paints me as such. On the contrary, it’s good that some writers are able—and willing—to be this open. Personally, I just don’t like doing it.
It makes me feel vulnerable.
I admit: I’m an introvert. Many writers are. And I tend to be far more chatty online than I am in real life (that may be true of all of us). But even behind the patina of social media and its digital bravado, I find it hard to put myself in the position of exposing something that is such a strong part of me. I’m cautious to whom I give my heart. And my process and my heart are stitched together in ways I still don’t fully understand.
At the same time, I always read blog posts from authors who are willing to bare all, as the case may be. I admire their eloquence and their insight. Mostly, I admire their bravery. Make no mistake: it takes courage to be published. To put your work out there to be judged. To endure slings and arrows (and sometimes endure unyielding praise, depending on your threshold of tolerance for that sort of thing). But talking openly about your process or craft is a special kind of brave. It’s one I haven’t mastered. And I don’t know that I want to, if I’m being totally honest.
I understand that a lot of good can come from this sort of candor. I know I always feel tidal waves of relief to learn an author I respect and admire is riddled with as much self-doubt as I am. I feel less alone in the universe when an author bravely admits how insecure they are.* The good thing about authors willing to talk openly about their views on craft and the things they’ve learned about their process is that it will more than likely reach at least one struggling writer who needs that nugget of encouragement or direction.
And as admirable as it would be to claim glory as an inspiration to writers everywhere… I can’t do it.
More than anything, this post probably makes me out to be an insecure, sociophobic curmudgeon who locks himself away in his writing cave and cringes at the thought of daylight or human interaction. I’m not objective enough to say how far from the truth that is. I hope anyone who knows me in person might offer a more enlightening opinion.
If asked, I’ll offer what advice I can. I just have difficulty doing it en masse. Not because I don’t want to help but because, on some levels, what I’ve learned has become married to instinct and is difficult to translate into information that would be of use to anyone who isn’t me. But know that if you ask me for advice and I can give it, you now have part of me.
Please be careful with it.
*I do think this can go a bit too far in the other direction, though. There’s saying, “Sometimes I feel like the worst writer in the universe” and then there’s saying that…repeatedly…on Twitter…several dozen times a day. I know it’s cheaper, but Twitter shouldn’t be an acceptable substitute for therapy.