So there's this sort of anxiety wandering around the sffh writers' corner of the blogosphere (and possibly other kinds of writers, too, but the sffh writers are the people I know) wringing its hands about how fast to write and how much to write and how fast other writers write and what the writing advice books say ...
And here's the thing.
This is not a race.
It's not a science fair competition.
Or even a performance art.As John very sensibly points out
, you can't tell from the product how long the process took. You may think
you can tell, but that's based on false correlations between perceived quality and unproven assumptions about time translating to care.
As with most things, I blame the Romantics.
You write as fast as you write. No, don't look at the person sitting next to you. It doesn't matter how fast she writes. She's not you. No, don't look at the guy on the other side, either. He's not you, either, and comparing yourself to him is a zero-sum game. Because if at the end of the day, you look at what he's written, you will find that he has either written more
than you or better
than you or--fatally--both
And maybe he has. (Maybe he hasn't, also. Most writers I know have this problem with their egos.)
But it still doesn't matter.
We're not being graded on a curve here, people.
I do think it's good to set goals for yourself, whether that goal is writing for four hours a day or producing a certain number of words. I personally find word-count goals more helpful than time goals, because I can stare at a word-processor window for four hours and get nothing, but--on the other hand--if I give myself a quota, I almost always hit it, even if it takes me all damn day. It depends on what works for the individual writer.
You should be sensing a theme.
And the same theme applies to books of writing advice. What you have to remember is, no matter how authoritarian the book is in its presentation (and, yes, I am looking directly at Strunk and White, thank you), it's still just one person's opinion about how this writing nonsense works.
And that person's opinion is almost certainly different from your own.
Most writing advice books, for example, assume that mimeticism is the name of the game, that everyone wants, and should
want, to write books about their (thinly-disguised) childhood. I thought for years that I was doomed to be a bad writer because I am not observant. I don't notice
things about the world around me (as mirrorthaw
, who have lived with me, can attest). And every book of writing advice I found told me that I had to observe, that I had to learn to write from life. And I tried, but it was unnatural and painful and made me write badly.You
will notice that I didn't stop writing. And that I maybe turned out to be a decent writer after all.All writing advice is like this.
(And I've read a lot of it.) It's only good advice if it works for you. If it doesn't work for you, that doesn't mean you're wrong or broken or bad. It means that creativity is subjective, and we're all doing the best we can here.
One man's meat is another man's poison. Or, what nourishes one writer will poison the next.
So comparing your self, your process, your output, to that of the writer sitting next to you is worse than useless. It is not only not productive, it is actually enabling self-sabotage.
Cut it out, people. Eyes on your own work. Listen to the drummer playing for you