These are interesting times to be a budding writer. Thanks to the boom of self-publishing and the Internet, it is more than easy to research how to write, how to get published, how to self-market, etc. There is barely a writing-related topic that doesn’t have a good few articles written about it.
The wisest of new writers and aspiring authors will take advantage of this and allocate some time for reading about writing, reading about publishing--basically just learning about their craft and how to sell it.
But is reading about writing always beneficial? Should we ever just close the browser and stop? And when should we do that?
Here are two examples of times you should stop reading about writing and just start writing:
1. When you're reading so much about writing that you're not actually writing.
Internet articles are like a virus: one breeds another, breeds another. You can follow them around in a merry little twist, trying to inform yourself. But beware--lurking under this guise of becoming informed is an unwelcome bugger: procrastination! There is little point to spending all your available reading about how to be a writer, and no time writing, because in order to be a writer, you need to have actually written stuff. A 60/40 split of time in favour of writing is a good guideline if you actually have stories to be working on. Remember, the articles aren’t going anywhere, and it's easier to go back and change what you have written after reading some good advice than to apply advice to a story that doesn’t exist.
2. When reading about writing makes you afraid you will get it wrong.
Years ago, I read Stephen King’s “On Writing,” and it put me off writing for at least a year. “What”? I hear you cry, “but it is so useful and true!” Yes, it is, but getting so much advice from someone so successful did the opposite of what was intended; it didn’t inspire me, it daunted me. And reading article upon on article about writing can do that too.
Imagine this is your first day at scary writers' school, and in the first lesson you get 45 books plus a massive reading list piled upon you. You get told, “do this,” “don’t do that,” “doing it like that is stupid,” “you will never be successful unless you do this!” Soon your eyes are wide and you are wishing you never came. You are overwhelmed.
If you find this happening, just stop reading and get writing. Good stories come from the heart. Writing is a craft that can be learned, of course, but if you don’t have passion for what you are writing and are just sticking to a set of rules, then what’s the point? No article can really pinpoint what makes a story stay with you forever. Sure, they can offer useful tips, but if they are scaring you to the point that you’re not writing, they are not serving their purpose. Articles about writing are an optional tool, not required reading.
Obviously, I am not saying that you should not learn your craft, improve, learn new skills, and learn from others. You should. Just don’t let it become all you do, and don’t let the fear of doing it wrong keep you from doing it at all.
(And yes, I am aware of the irony of telling you not to read too much about writing in an article about writing! :-))
If you do want to read more, a great resource for articles is the Twitter account of my friend and writer, Andrew Burdon https://twitter.com/AndrewBurdon
See more at http://www.glogray.com