If you are, or ever have been, a new writer looking for advice, you’ve probably been told to “Just write.” On the flip side, if you’ve spent time on writing forums, listening and reading to things people say about writing, just write / write every day are some of the most controversial points that get brought up. The debates can get incredibly complicated, going into as varied points as lacking inspiration, whether or not writing feels like work, how much one should write, the importance of taking breaks…
Seriously, if you ever want to spark a massive debate among writers, make a strongly worded statement in favor of or against “just write” and duck and cover.
I think it’s a shame that it happens.
Just write is good advice. Just write is also bad advice. The problem really is, at the end of the day, trying to boil down advice to a two word catchphrase is going to result in confusion, frustration, and people misinterpreting it in different ways.
When it’s bad advice:
We’re going to start with the problems with the just write advice. First of all, it doesn’t tell you how to just write. If you’re struggling, if you’re stuck, being told “just write” isn’t particularly helpful. If anything, it comes across as dismissive. You’re already trying to write, so what good is being told to do what you’re already doing? If you’re looking for help in that area, I’ve written a few other posts that might be helpful.
The other way “just write” is problematic advice is that it ignores other factors in your life. If you’re already overworked, if you’re already stressed, if you’re already pushed to your limit, trying to squeeze writing in there is going to be difficult, bordering on impossible. Writing is work sometimes. If you’re already at your limit, pushing yourself even harder isn’t going to accomplish anything. It’s not the kind of work you can autopilot during, it’s not the kind of work that goes well when you’re already stretched as far as you can go.
When it’s good advice:
On the other hand, sometimes ‘just write’ is the absolute best advice to give a struggling writer. Raise your hand if you’ve been here before:
You have an idea. You have a great, solid idea. You keep toying with this idea, tinkering with it, refining it. You think this could be the idea, the one that pushes you into finally finishing a project. Then, just when you think it’s perfect, you find a flaw in it. The idea becomes stupid. You discard it.
That’s when ‘just write’ is great advice. Any idea can seem perfect, and any idea can seem flawed. Ideas are just the seed you use to grow your story. In the end, what matters more than anything else is execution. A bad idea well executed can be amazing. A good idea poorly executed is going to end up failing
Don’t let your doubts rule you. If you find you spend more time thinking about being a writer than you do actually writing, that’s when you should ‘just write.’ If you spend more time trying to perfect ideas or worldbuild than writing, that’s when you should ‘just write.’
Encountered the ‘just write’ problem yourself? Let me know in the comments below. And don’t forget to grab a free copy of Rumors here!