Articles on Writing

A Writer’s Guide to Creative Roads Less Traveled

Two roads diverged in a wood. The sign for one was labeled Successville, 10,000 Hours Ahead. The other sign was labeled The Visionary’s Ivory Tower: A Tourist Haven for Artists.

And, unable to see the forest for the trees, the writer at the crossroads stood wondering why she should have to choose between success and vision.

A Writer’s False Dilemma

The Visionary’s Tower marks no mileage and gives no indication of how long it will take you to arrive–or whether you ever will. All focus idealizes creativity. Successville promises nothing regarding fulfillment, it only demands that you accept the plodding journey of technical mastery. All focus idealizes market theory.

Neither of these is real life as a writer.

How, then, to proceed? I’d suggest there are really just two tools for progress. They’re like left foot and right foot, alternately moving you forward on your creative journey.

Measure yourself accurately.

Stay true to yourself.

Measure yourself accurately.

Stay true to yourself.

How the False Dilemma Arises

The trick is not to shoot yourself in one foot or the other. Some advice will tell you to abandon unusual creative visions and write for a market. That’s not the same as heading for Successville. It could be, but it’s no guarantee, because success involves many, many other kinds of work as well as market orientation.

Some peers will demonstrate an attitude that being true to one’s literary vision means ignoring or at least challenging all advice from “the establishment,” whatever that may be to any given writer. That can result in failure to learn, rejection of beneficial connections, and isolating oneself among like minds who aren’t looking beyond the self-built ivory tower of idea preservation.

Taking The Road Less Traveled

In learning the art and craft of writing, the creative road less traveled is neither vision nor success. The least common path is the one which constantly reaches for both excellence and original expression. Step by step.

With that perspective, it begins to make sense why success and vision so rarely combine to deliver truly notable creative endeavors. Success in some form can be had without excellence and original expression. So can vision–in some form. But only through excellence and original expression can we bring the two together.

With that in mind, I’ll be posting a series about developing a mindset focused on the creative road less traveled. In Beginning to Write, we’ll talk about getting oriented as a writer and avoiding the initial distractions of common debates over art, craft and markets. Those are important considerations, but everything in its own acceptable time.

Beginning to Write

The first three articles are up and running, with more to come. Enjoy!

1. When Will Publishing Advice Start to Work?–This is the big question for every new writer. Why am I doing this? Will it ever come to anything at all? Tips on starting to get published are a set of experiments that allow you to find your direction, not a formula for success, and you shouldn’t be intimidated by them. We’ll talk about embracing your unique journey.

2. Your Brain Must Transition from Spoken Word to Written Word–Speech and writing are two different dialects of English due to their different mediators. When someone speaks, the message is mediated through their body language and inflection. When you write, your meaning is mediated by a blank piece of paper. Begin learning how to bring it to life.

3.  Wisdom is Better Than Desire–Desire for your goal is good, but it doesn’t get you to the finish line. So let’s talk about the wisdom needed to get to where you belong. Self-publishing? Niche publishing? Commercial publishing? Take the measure of your options–and yourself.

Image: Country Road by Slideshow Bruce on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


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