Advice for Writers

photo 5Last summer, at the Writing Yoga® Retreat that I host with my colleague Stefanie Lipsey, I learned something that some might say, “No, duh!” to, but that I’d kind of forgotten. It was during one of our afternoon yoga sessions, and Stefanie was leading the yoga. She reminded us to focus on what was happening on our own yoga mat. That is to say, it didn’t matter if the person next to me could balance on one foot while wrapping their other foot behind their head, all while humming a satisfying OM to the universe, while I might be struggling to figure out which way to turn my head, where to place my hand, and how my foot happened to get where it is. Yoga isn’t a contest. It’s not a competitive sport. When I focused on what was happening on my own mat, not only was it a much more pleasant experience, but I was able to achieve the tasks I set for myself there.

Similarly, writing isn’t a competitive sport. “What?,” you might ask, “How can that be?!” Because your writing isn’t going to keep improving if you don’t keep your focus on your own work. Measuring yourself against other writers won’t make your writing any better or worse. Putting others down or putting yourself down in comparison to others also won’t change how you write. What will change how you write is writing and reading.

So, if you’re not a write every day kind of writer, that’s ok. If you’re a plotter or a *pantser, that’s ok. If you only write during the summer, that’s ok. If you can’t read in your genre while you’re in the midst of a manuscript, that’s ok. If you need to eat mini marshmallows while you write, that’s ok. However it works for you is ok. Keep your concentration on what’s happening on your own “yoga mat.” In that way, you’ll know what you need to focus on next and it might be a more pleasant experience.

*a “pantser” is someone who writes by the seat of their pants, as opposed to outlining a whole plot beforehand.

What’s one bit of advice you’d like to give other writers? What’s one bit of writing advice that made a difference for you?


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12 responses to “Advice for Writers

  1. Sent off my query letter to you. Still working on finishing sixth novel. So close to the end, then the work of editing begins.

  2. B L Harris

    My yoga teacher said (referring to tree pose): “If you get into ego (which, BTW, is where competition lives – my insert), you will lose your balance.” That’s what happens when you look at someone else’s mat. It’s interesting to apply to my writing, especially since I just started in a critique group. 🙂

  3. It’s been my experience that cookies work better than mini marshmallows!

  4. Lisa

    Thank you. I needed to read this. There are days when it is so easy to be overly critical about my own writing.

  5. Lesley C

    I love, love, love this Linda. I am a snowflake 😀 Ommmm.

  6. melrosedeb

    This helped me so much. It may be the best advise ever on writing. I am working on getting the final twists and turns of my middle grade novel just right — and like yoga, focus is required.

  7. jackiehames

    Reblogged this on The Spidereen Frigate and commented:
    This is a nice reminder, as I am frantically overhauling the mythology of my next project and anxiously awaiting responses from publishers for the novella I just sent out. Oy.

    Creativity is hard–but so worth it.

  8. Best advice was written by Jennifer Egan: “Read at the level that you want to write.” For me, this is crucial because I learn so much by osmosis. Since I’ve made it a practice to read “above my grade level” so to speak, my writing has also improved dramatically.

  9. When I first started to write, eons ago, I first had to teach myself that there wasn’t one winner, one gold medal, for writing. Not only did more than one book get published each year, more than one of each type of book was published, and publishers picked up more than one manuscript. Even agents had more than one client. It wasn’t a contest, and I only had to write the best book I could. Many of us could be winners.

  10. A wonderful reminder Linda. We all need to hear the “it’s ok” in addition to remembering to focus on our “own mat.” Thanks. There are days I need to remember “it’s ok.”

  11. I totally agree with Emily… Write every day!

  12. So true, Linda. Everyone has their own formula for writing success and fulfillment.

    For me, “write every day, even a little bit” is the best advice I’ve ever received. Not only does this level of consistency keep my writing muscles in shape, but it keeps me committed to the craft. And better still, it makes me feel like a real writer. (My identity is tied to writing, so if I don’t write every day, I start to feel a little lost.)