Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Radical Writing Advice: Who Are You?

There is much advice floating about for writers. So many conflicting viewpoints about the best way to publish, to write, to edit, to create your platform. To do just about anything related to authors and their work.

I'm not calling anyone out or setting up a gripe session about what is right or wrong. No, that's not what I do. Or try not to do.

I know there are confident people in all professions who have no doubts about who they are and what they want to be. Be now or when they grow up. They know this is the path to follow and some are sure that others should follow in their footprints. And they may be right. Or are right, for themselves and for others. And certainly we want to learn from those who have succeeded in what we want to do. Writing is no different in that way.

When I'm talking about writing, I mean all writers and authors, playwrights, poets, novelists, memoirists, and so on. I certainly have a pile, or several piles, of books about writing, on writing, on how to write, for writers and by writers. And many of them are very good. Lots of advice.

So, with all this advice, with people whom we admire suggesting different and sometimes opposing ideas. Sometimes, there might be a little confusion. Sometimes, while we might strive to be like a famous author or editor or blogger or comedian, we might also lose sight of ourselves. Maybe that's okay. No, what I mean is, that's okay if that's what you want to do.

I've been struggling in trying to follow the path of the "famous" or at least well-known in big-time writers and local writers, too. I've been looking at those who seem to know what to do, or at least that's the persona or the platform they've built and it seems to work for them.

But in this process of following advice, I've discovered that I've lost a bit of me. Have you done that, too? Maybe you haven't and that's awesome. Truly. But I have.

I appreciate the hard work and wise words of writers who are living that dream. Who are writing successfully and telling us how they did it. For the pioneers in social networking and blogging and platform building who give us advice. All worthy and to be noted. Yes.

And I appreciate that we are individuals and have our own ways.

What I'm proposing is that we look at who we are and decide how much of that we are willing to let go of in order to be like that writer we admire. Why are we letting go of that thing we do which is a little off the beaten track? Should we? And can we? What is the cost in the long term of undoing a part of who we are?

I'm not saying that sometimes it's not a good idea to alter or improve or put away a piece of us - if that thing is not working. If it's habit and not our truth. If it's not in our best interest and doesn't bring us abundance and joy and a sense of our place in the world.

This is sticky stuff to wade through.

But in the end, as writers, isn't it our voice we're promoting? Isn't it our words and our way of storytelling we're using to promote our craft, our characters, our novels?

So, back to the example of me: if I try to keep my blog "professional" and clean up what I'm saying - or only write things directly (read : blatantly) related to writing - then I'm leaving out where I came from on my blog. I'm leaving out important information about my writing process, which may or may not be relevant to other writers.

I feel like I'm talking in circles here a bit. But I also think this is important.

For some writers, having that platform *is* who they are. They want an angle, a perspective or genre with a slant to be known for; and that's good. Some writers want to be known for their author persona and that's good. I'm not saying it's not okay. But I am saying that we first have to know who we are and how we want to be known. Then seek out the advice and footsteps of those who fit our style.

Just like some people seem to be naturally born sales reps, some of us aren't. Some people are born with the ability to be a chameleon and morph to fit the current trends, some of us have a hard time masking who we are. And there are all of the in-betweens, of course.

I think what's important is to know who you are as a writer. What parts of you fit with that? What do you want to improve or lose or enhance? Then do that. I am not Denise Mina nor do I write like her. I am not Natalie Goldberg and don't strive to be her, though especially some of her earlier writing books were inspirational. Even my mentor and the excellent writer and faciliator and teacher, Ariel Gore - I am not her nor can I be.

Find what is true for you. Follow that.

That's what I'm hoping to do. And I'll start right here. I love doing the Razor's Edge prompts on Fridays and the Radical Writng Advice early in the week and will continue to do so. But I also miss writing about adventures and found prompts and walks and even the mundane at times. These all inform my stories.

Find you and write with her. Look inside and ask what your heart wants you to do; then do that.