I realize that this post’s title is ironic in that I am going to be writing about writing, but my issue lies not with discussing writing, but romanticizing the act of writing. It seems to me that most “aspiring writers” can spend hours talking about their pre-writing rituals: “The sun must be at this specific point in the sky before I can open Word;” “I need to have smoked three cigarettes and scowled derisively at the chattering birds outside my window;” “I must be caressing my copy of Neuromancer for twenty minutes before I commit to writing.”
As quirky, hilarious, or outright weird as writers’ rituals are, I see too many writers using them as excuses for not actually writing. Our pre-writing habits are fine; I have no room to judge, as I have my own. What I see as a problem is the attempt at justifying that these habits make us waste valuable writing time, and that’s why little to no writing gets done. Such a claim is fallacious. The only waste of time is in trying to use your routine as an excuse for why you cannot simply put words on the page.
I’m a frequent reader of reddit and I subscribe to the various writing subreddits. I see these sorts of posts more often than I’d like, posts and comments of huge, multi-paragraph excuses for why someone can’t just sit down and write. I’ve read blog posts from authors and writers explaining how their rituals make them waste time, but I always think to myself: is it really the five minutes of sit-ups you like to do before you write that distracts or stops you, or the fact that you need to tell the world about why your sit-ups prevent your newest project from being touched in weeks?
The idea for this post stemmed from reading The Medium of First Drafts Doesn’t Matter. Arthur’s post makes mention of how he considered using a typewriter to produce his first drafts, hoping it would free him from distraction, but that he would always return to his PC for the second draft and revisions. He explores the reasoning behind believing another medium would improve his workflow and efficiency and comes to the conclusion that, in the end, the medium for producing work or enjoying music doesn’t matter: what does matter is the goal.
Arthur’s post reminded me of reading a comment thread before between writers discussing and experimenting with different mediums for writing. Some would swear writing in a moleskin notebook was the only effective way; others could only use a fountain pen or a pencil in a college-ruled notebook, and others either didn’t have a preference or were, in my opinion, naively hoping someone would tell them which method was the best. The truth is that, as Arthur said, medium does not matter. What matters is putting words to paper, whether that is accomplished literally in a moleskin notebook, or typed into an ancient computer still running DOS. What works best for you is probably not going to work best for someone else, and I think it is a waste of time in searching for what medium someone claims is best.
My advice is simple: It does not matter if you write your manuscript on a thousand tiny napkins using a gel-pen after you have completed a run around the block wearing only socks. Do what is best for you to bring your stories to life.