I left Midwest Writers Workshop feeling, as always, eager and excited to write write write. And then… I didn’t. I got back to my running and biking (and even did some strength-training – owie). But the writing thing didn’t happen for that whole week after. In fact, it wasn’t until yesterday that I even opened my manuscript. I wanted to write, but I cringed at the thought of opening the manuscript file. There were so many things running through my head from MWW15 – changes to make, revision ideas, thoughts on theme and characters. It was overwhelming. Then I remembered one of the great panels from MWW15. Julie Hyzy talked to us about the voices in our heads.
As writers, part of our job is to listen to the voices. However, that doesn’t mean we want to listen to every voice. We don’t, for instance, need to listen to the nagging voice of the inner critic when we’re working on that first draft (and this goes double if, like mine, your inner critic sounds like your mother). We don’t need to hear the voice of our critique partner, because as much as that person might intend to help, she doesn’t necessarily share the vision for your story that you have (Julie recommended not sharing your work with a CP until that first draft is finished). We don’t need to listen to our inner procrastinator, nagging us to wash the dishes or mop the floors or do the laundry.
We do need to listen to our characters. We’ve got to let them talk to us, tell us what it is that they want to do and, sometimes more importantly, what they won’t do. We need to hear them and if we can’t, it could be a sign that we’re trying to force them into something that doesn’t fit them.
The point here (yes, I do have one) is this. I heard a lot of advice at MWW15. It was great. It gave me a lot to think about. It also gave me a lot of voices in my head. I mean, A LOT. All those voices were drowning out my characters. They were drowning out my voice.
I heard a lot of tips and tricks at the conference. Julie Hyzy talked about locking yourself away from everyone with a timer and giving yourself 30 minutes to just write. Finding that 30 minutes wasn’t working for me this time. What did work was letting those voices shout themselves out. I didn’t fuss about not writing (much). I went on my runs and my bike rides. I started reading a new book. I gave myself some space and finally I am back to a place where I can listen to my characters and move forward again. And this is, I think, the ultimate lesson of Midwest Writers Workshop. You can (and will) hear a lot of writing advice but in the end, you have to do what works for you. If you don’t know where to start then yes, by all means, give someone else’s method a try and see if it works for you. But don’t be surprised or upset if it doesn’t. We’re all wired differently and there’s no one-size-fits-all writing process.