Put down the writing books

writing advice

I’ve noticed in the course of my fiction writing endeavors that reading books on writing can be helpful — and then stifling.

The expert advice can make us smarter and ward us away from a lot of bad decisions. But after I had stockpiled a dozen books and was rifling through them, marking their pages with pen or post-it notes to flag a good tip, I realized all that information was weighing me down. Not just in my head but in my writing as well.

So today, I put all those books in the corner of my room, where they’d stay out of sight. Because to set your writing free, you have to turn off all the voices that tell you to do this or do that, or that it’s not good, and just listen to what the story and characters tell you.

Having all the voices from those books speaking at once — telling me what my writing should and shouldn’t be like — was like trying to write in a crowded, noisy room.

I’m not done reading books on writing. I want to keep honing my craft, and other, wiser people have a lot to teach me. But for now, I’m going to concentrate on writing my way. The lessons I’ve learned are still with me. I’ll just leave the rest for another day — when the writing is done and editing as all I have to think about.

And when I feel overwhelmed by this, by writing at all, I think of Anne Lamott. Just take it bird by bird, kid.

What do you think? Is advice ever too much of a good thing? How do you deal with it?

4 thoughts on “Put down the writing books”

  1. Who is the artist for your literate frog illustration? I’ve admired that illustration for some years, and would love to find the attribution—perhaps to use it in a publication of mine.


      1. Thank you Stephanie Carmichael.

        Alas, I’d love to use the attribution.
        Haven’t used the literate frog image except in a very few pages given away to friends.

        If you ever discover the artist, I’d love to know it.

        Warm regards,

        Byron G. Curtis

        From: Misprinted Pages
        Reply-To: Misprinted Pages
        Date: Monday, August 26, 2019 at 4:14 PM
        To: geneva
        Subject: [New comment] Put down the writing books

        Stephanie Carmichael commented: “To my shame, I confess I don’t remember! (And sorry for the embarassing lateness of this reply!) I think I found it on Google Images. It should totally be cited!”


      2. Ah. Alas. No artist to thank for froggy prose and ribbeting poetry? Alas.

        If you ever do discover the source, I’d love to know it.

        Thank you for the reply. I’ve done the same, BTW—not discovered a note for years, hiding on some blogspot I’d forgotten about. No worries.

        I haven’t used the literate frog’s image except for in some private whimsy given to a few friends. But I’d love it to be in my published book of poems. If I ever get to it. And get a publisher. And don’t have to pay money.

        Warm regards on this fine August day.




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