Best Practices That Aren’t

Best Practices That Aren’t

Like many writers, I have read a lot of “how to” books on writing and they are full of Best Practices. Each one, with its own tried and true method that will absolutely get you started, or help you finish, or create a three dimensional character, or whatever magic bullet/shiny object caught my eye, and made me buy their how-to book.

Until I signed up for this DIY MFA class, not once did I ever doubt that these published authors, these gurus were writing absolute gospel. I assumed that they obviously knew what they were talking about, and it was me who was somehow lacking if I didn’t follow suit.

I thought that if writing a bunch of stream of consciousness words for 15 minutes first thing in the morning wasn’t working for me, I simply wasn’t trying hard enough. All I got out of Morning Pages was half a college ruled notebook full of grocery lists, repeated words, and grousing comments about not wanting to do Morning Pages.

I thought if I skipped around writing this poem on one day, and that prose piece on another day, I was clearly not focused and doomed to failure. I beat on myself to finish a poem I had come to hate for a long time, forcing myself to focus on that one piece before I could move on to the piece I really wanted to work on. Not surprisingly, once I put that poem aside, and loosened my death grip on it, one day the right words came to me in a dream, and I wondered why I couldn’t make it work before.

I thought that if I couldn’t get 50 index cards collated into a meaningful outline, I had to face it, I just wasn’t writer material. I am still trying to make the index cards method work, but I’m letting myself experiment with other ways of putting a story together. I hope to come up with a hybrid of what I’ve read, and what works for me.

Turns out – writing is not a one size fits all process! Thank goodness! I’ve learned through DIY MFA that there are a lot of practices out there, but not all will be the best practice for you. Maybe, they are just that – a practice, a rehearsal, or experiment to see what works and what doesn’t.

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