When all the advice in the world is meant for everyone but you

When all the advice in the world is meant for everyone but you

writing advice - ray bradbury

In life, and in writing, there are large numbers of successful people willing to teach you their secret to achieving your goals. Many of them will charge you for this knowledge, or at least want you to buy their book. If you just learn to do things their way then success is guaranteed.

On mummy blogs I’ve seen people claim that making the bed in the morning is their secret to having a productive morning. Or running through a simple, set routine as soon as they wake up. Or shining your kitchen sink before you go to bed (like that is ever going to happen around here!).

When it comes to caring for a baby there are all kinds of “experts” who want you to do things their way. A lot of them seem to focus on getting your baby to sleep. Like that is the only important thing.

It doesn’t take anyone very long to realize that what works for other people may not work for you. We are all unique. Our personality, values, and the things we want out of life are different. Trying to bend yourself to fit someone else “best practice” generally just makes you feel tired from running to keep up, and like a failure because you can’t do things the way they have said you should.

Best Practices in Writing #DIYMFA Week 6

I have been dipping in and out of the weekly questions on the DIYMFA Street team. Answering only the questions about which I have something to say. This week the question is about “best practices”. All that advice that experienced writers, and bloggers give to help you on the way to success. This is the question:

There are a lot of people spouting “best practices” about writing. Write X number of words per day. Write every day. Don’t reread what you write. Don’t share your work until you’ve perfected it. And so forth.

Have you ever tried one of these “best practices”? How did it go? Write about that experience.

I have so much to say on this topic! And don’t get me started on the fact that the advice to women seems to be if you want to write don’t have children. Oopps, too late. I’m pretty sure there is a whole army of women out there who are proving that wrong.

I am currently working through The Artist’s Way (as I may have mentioned a couple times before). Which in essence is a book full of best practices to be an artist. Below are my thoughts on the things taught in the book and whether or not they are working for me. There are two which are fundamental to Julia Cameron’s advice:

  1. Morning Pages – I have been writing these approximately 3 times each week (sometimes more frequently, sometimes less) since last September. The advice is to write 3 pages of long hand, about whatever your brain has to say through the pen in your hand. I soon realized that slavishly working towards 3 pages when words just weren’t coming was counterproductive. I generally write a page and a half, sometimes less and that is enough…maybe I should just buy a notebook with smaller pages then I’d fill 3.;-p Forcing myself to write 3 pages just for the sake of it won’t help free me up, it actually has the opposite effect. And one reason I have lasted this long with writing them is that I never even tried to write every single day. I’m never going to achieve every day at anything.
  2. Artist’s Dates – Basically you should take yourself on a date once a week to do something fun, inspirational or creative. This is not happening. I could only manage any time free from watching a toddler when he is asleep (which is reading, writing and sleeping time) or at the weekend. My weekends are already full. I think the point is to have fun and nurture yourself. In essence it is self care or me time. Getting out in nature, with or without the boy, is important for me so I do that when I can. And if I do get alone time away from the house then I head to my favourite cafe. If we lived in a city where I could walk to galleries or interesting antique shops maybe I would do that and call it an artist’s date. But I don’t. I live in the suburbs of Yokohama.

I just finished Week 4 of the book. It is “reading deprivation week”. I was not supposed to read anything all week. I cheated by dropping into discussion groups on Facebook (which is conversation really, right) and reading emails that need my attention. But no blog posts, online articles or actual books. But 5 days in I gave up on depriving myself and read through the notes to Susannah Conway’s Blogging From the Heart ecourse.

Which ironically clarified why they reading deprivation was doing nothing for me, other than making me frustrated. Susannah says she has to write before she has read anything else that day. For me the process is the exact opposite. I needed to skim through the other posts DIYMFA Street teamers had written and the email from Gabriella before writing this post for example.

If I’m not reading constantly I run out of ideas. Not reading means I’m not being myself. Most nights I read for about an hour before sleep. Not reading, just meant I was falling asleep earlier, which may not be a bad thing, but I liked the rhythms of my days. It’s also one of my goals for this year to read 48 books (or 4 a month). I was already 2 books behind schedule and falling back by a third book, was not helping me reach that goal.

So in short and to sum up, my advice: find what works for you and do that. If you’re really stuck then try out someone else’s process. But ditch it if it isn’t working and find something that does.

 

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  • Yep, I totally get what you mean! I always remember from the La Leche League breastfeeding support meetings that I attended how the mother leading the meeting would say ‘take what you want from the ideas and parenting practices we’ll discuss – what you think might work for your family – and leave the rest behind’. This is such a good thing to remember. And this totally fits for so many areas in life. Best wishes to you, M xx

    • Kamsin

      The nearest La Leche group to me was 2 hours away, so I never made it to the meetings, but the online advice from the one English speaking breastfeeding expert in Tokyo, was always my way or the highway. So refreshing when experts are able to acknowledge that we all have to find our own way.
      Thank you for commenting.

  • I think that is really good advice! I remember how in the early days of parenthood I wondered how to cope with this huge life change and all the (differing) advice out there just made me feel worse. It’s so much easier once you start to find your own way…in all areas of life I think. Which isn’t to say that other people’s ideas can’t be wonderful and useful and even possibly transformative – but only if they work for you! Thanks for linking to #WhatImWriting

    • Kamsin

      I think sometimes we want a magic formula that is guaranteed to work. The people selling the books and the online courses and whatever, know this. But although there may be shortcuts to be found in the advice, we still have to do the work of learning how we best function as mums and as writers.
      Thanks for commenting.

  • I’ve noticed lots of women over 40 becoming writers when listening to podcasts later. I just assumed they were all like me – Mums who’d been too busy until now! If I worry I remind myself of our daily mantra at Uni (I did Women’s Studies, we had daily mantras): I can do well, I will do well, and today I’m going to show the lot of them. I love the things you’re doing, and I’m sure you’re one to watch. BB

    • Kamsin

      Love that mantra! I was told at a Women’s Group once that many women reach the height of success at 45 or later. I too assumed it was connected to childrearing and children being older. But I wonder now if as looks, and hormones begin to fade and attention from men often goes with it, perhaps women find a freedom to be themselves once the pressures of femininity as defined by society are no longer focused on them.
      Thank you for your comment!

  • So true in so many areas of life I think. I’ve had this nagging feeling over the past couple of years, as I seek out advice and inspiration about parenting and writing, that I really don’t seem to fit anyone else’s mould of how best to get things done. Bits of it fit, sure – but so much I read or hear just doesn’t apply to me! I don’t know why this is even vaguely surprising seeing as I have always been one to carve my own path, but the insecurity of new things seems to make me gravitate towards what everyone else is doing – even when it’s entirely inappropriate. The confidence to do things your own way is just so important. Fab post xx

    • Kamsin

      Yes, we find security I think, in how other people do things. And sometimes, finding our own path takes a lot work and we’re hoping for a shortcut. But there are no shortcuts, in life or writing.