This blog was featured on 07/20/2017
Let Your Curiosity Guide You

I was sitting on a panel at a writing conference when an audience member asked a great question: should he write his book to be more publishable (in his mind, that meant rosy and optimistic) or stay true to his own perspective (a little more dark)?

My fellow panelists, all book authors, each said the same thing: stay true to your voice. You're going to write a better book if you're writing something that interests you.

I added what I'd learned from my clients: those who struggle the most are often trying to write the book or story they think they "should" write. When they stopped worrying about doing it the right way, and wrote what interested them, they succeeded.

This is #5 in my Eight Shifts Series, helping writers transform their writing process. You can find the first one here

SHIFT #5: Stop deciding what to write and let your curiosity decide for you.

In reality, this man's question comes in many forms. Am I picking the right idea? Is my idea good? Am I doing it the right way? What should I write?

All of these questions are based on the premise that a writer decides what to write and then writes it. But have you ever sat down to write one thing, only to write something? Something that's pretty good? 

The power of an idea is to get a writer to sit down and write. Then, whatever it is that needs to be said can rise to the surface.

My writing took off the moment I stopped choosing a topic and let my curiosity decide for me. 

That random tree decorated by the highway? Who did that and why? That time my parents' dog ran away and then my dad got lost trying to find her? What was that like? That photograph in one of my short stories of an early female scientist? What’s her deal?

Writing was no longer about thinking something up and then getting it down. It was about exploring the things that intrigued me. That meant I was more interested in my writing and more committed to seeing it through. And those simple questions led to a published short story, another in the works, and a novel that continues to grow. 

In a way, this approach flips the old adage—write what you know. Instead, write what you'd like to know.

You can start today. Grab a pen and paper and reflect:

It would be interesting to...

P.S. Ready for a writing breakthrough? Break free from writing rules that don't work and find your way with my FREE three-part series: Inside the Writers Mind. The first insight (and writing prompt) could be yours today.

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  • And don't forget, Barbara, you can always give yourself the freedom to write what you really want first, and then think about marketability later when you're editing!

  • Thanks for this kick in the pants. I confess, I always have one eye on what's marketable -- when I know that you're right: the freshest writing is the writing that you really want to do.