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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Where Does Your Writing Belong? And Does Not Knowing Cause Writer’s Block?

chicken-before-the-eggDo you question where your writing is going, what genre and sub-genre it belongs in, if it’s good enough?

Do you question your writing because you’re resistant or are you resistant because you question your writing?

Do you remember why you wanted to write back when you first entertained the idea?

I started writing because I wanted to do what I saw other writers do — enthrall and enchant readers the way J.R.R. Tolkien did.

Maybe you want to make readers laugh their butts off like Terry Pratchett and David Sedaris do, or inspire readers through life’s most difficult times as Anne Frank did, or to challenge readers’ assumptions and beliefs the way Mary Shelley and George Orwell did.

Growing Up as a Writer

dont_tellAs we learn the writer’s craft, our goals shift, in part because we refine our sense of purpose as a writer and in part because we’re influenced by the community we join. We learn that good writers always do this and never do that.

We learn the techniques, conventions and clichés of our genres, which helps us be better writers. Unfortunately that education often makes us cringe at our early, awkward efforts. Once we learn to see flaws, it’s natural to want to either hide them or fix them (e.g. change our writing so it will fit in).

Natural, but not always useful. If we’re not careful, our desire to belong to the tribe of writers can drive us to hide or fix so much, there’s little of our originally left to share.

Does Your Writing Fit?

Brene Brown makes a valuable distinction between fitting in and belonging in The Gifts of Imperfection:

“…in fact, fitting in gets in the way of belonging. Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires that we be who we are.”

procrustes07In our eagerness to become a better writer, we can lose sight of the writer we are.

Our attempt to improve our writing, which is laudable and essential for us to grow into the writer we truly are meant to be, can devolve into a Procrustean solution. Wielding the word against ourselves only makes it more tragic.

Refusing to Cut

In some cases, resistance can be a wordless form of self-preservation.

Of course, writers have to be willing to cut the writing when necessary. But we should never cut ourselves off at the knees.

As we grow as human beings and develop as writers, it’s easy to lose track of our original “why.” We can learn so much about how we’re supposed to write and who we’re supposed to be as writers, that we forget how we truly want to write and who we really are as writers.

Just for a few minutes, let yourself forget about fitting in as a writer. Stop focusing on what the market wants, what agents and editors are looking for, what your writing group likes.

Let yourself get up off the bed of Procrustes and ask yourself far more important questions:

  • Why do I want to write?
  • How do I want to write?
  • What do I want to write?

When you answer these questions, then and only then, will you recognize where you belong as a writer.

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2 Comments on “Where Does Your Writing Belong? And Does Not Knowing Cause Writer’s Block?”

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