When ‘how to write’ advice turns ugly

Judging by the number of books about the writing process out there, I’m not alone when it comes to looking outside for reassurance about writing. Over the years, I’ve read a fair few detailing writing processes, from personal accounts to textbook style glossaries, but I keep running up against the same problem – sometimes I feel them hurting me more than they are helping.

That’s why I’ve been kind of avoiding them for a while. However, at New York Comic Con Ink and I were told again and again to read Stephen King’s On Writing and, under the weight of some significant peer pressure, I did.

Now the book itself I really quite enjoyed, and I can absolutely see why so many folks were encouraging aspiring comic writers to pick it up (it seems there are many, many people who think they can get into comics without actually studying the bones of writing) but for me it brought up the same uneasy feelings I always seem to have when it comes to books about writing.

Basically, these books give me the chance to have a look at my own methods and my own output and compare it unfavourably with those of the author. So, when they say they write x words a day, I feel inadequate and so on. I was sharing some of these worries post-book with Ink, and he asked me if I’d got myself into the position where I was actually doubting my own passion for writing. The answer was yes. Oops.

So what am I saying? I do think these books can be great, and it always feels great to find a wonderful speck of advice in there or to find you have some habits in common with successful writers. But if you’re like me and have a habit of taking things a little too personally, get on my bandwagon and promise yourself accept advice with a grain of salt – I’m sure none of the creators of these books would like to think you weren’t.